If you haven't been living in a paper bag recently, you'll know that Boston was the victim of guerrilla marketing gone bad. Some marketers place some electronic devices around the city - under bridges and whatnot - that lit up to display a character fro the Cartoon Network show Aquateen Hungerforce. The devices were spotted and thought to be suspicious, which set off a number of bomb-scares across the city.
As a marketer and resident of Boston I thought I should weigh-in in the pile of opinions.
Did the City of Boston overreact?
I don't believe so. They had no idea what the devices were, just that they were electronic and placed where terrorists might stick bombs. With anything like this - better safe than sorry. If these things had been explosive devices and the city had not reacted as they did - the results could have been catastrophic.
The big issue for me is that the devices had been in place for a number of weeks and nobody noticed. Scary.
What about the culpability of the guys who placed the devices?
These guys come off as a couple of goof-balls. I do not believe that they intended to cause a bomb-scare, and I'd hate to see them do prison time.
However, putting up advertising signs on anyone's property (or public property) without permission is a big no-no. I think a fine of some kind and some community service time is in order.
What about the culpability of Turner Broadcasting?
The buck stops here. Ultimately Turner Broadcasting is responsible for overseeing all activities of the marketing company and its contractors. It's good that they are offering to compensate the city for it's expenditures, however, that's not enough.
If you ever use an external marketing agency - you must control their activities, and have final approval over every campaign.
The marketing agency shares responsibility here as well.
Real guerrilla marketing doesn't break the law
There have been a few incidents lately of so-called guerrilla marketing, where property has been defaced. This is a horrible idea. Spray-painting, attaching signs, stickers, posters, or any other activity that places an advertising message onto property you don't own can only be done with approval.
So, it remains that Turner will probably pay a couple of million dollars to Boston, and receive a PR black-eye. They are to be commended for stepping up so fast, and taking responsibility. That's smart. The faster they can put this behind them, the better