Call it Public Nuisance Marketing.
By now the world knows how some advertising guys created a terrorist scare in
Alert citizens and police thought the boxes with exposed circuit boards, wires and batteries looked like bombs. So they shut down half the city. Then they realized they were had. Media swarmed. Police made arrests. Lawyers pressed charges. Pundits and politicians pontificated. A CEO apologized. Talk shows buzzed, bloggers laughed and people took the boxes down to sell them on EBay.
You can’t buy that kind of publicity. Especially for a cartoon about a talking milkshake, meatball and order of french fries.
So-called “guerrilla” or “stealth” marketing has been around as long as there have been products to sell. Most of it generates the same yawning ambivalence of any other ad, especially among younger media-savvy consumers who are quite aware that they’re being bombarded with thousands of brand pitches each day. That’s how the light boxes were received in other cities, where they generated barely a raised eyebrow -- much less an urgent order to shut down the highways.
But for whatever reason, the same promotion got a different reaction in
To a lesser extent, Sony got a similar reaction last year when it paid graffiti artists in several cities to adorn abandoned buildings with unattributed spray-paintings of bug-eyed cartoon characters riding the PlayStation like a skateboard, or licking it like a lollipop. Sure, the company was hammered in national news stories by community leaders for ignoring zoning and billboard laws. But the publicity also served as a knowing wink from Sony to city kids who thought politicians and parents were making a big deal out of nothing.
Don’t think for a minute that smart marketing types aren’t getting the message of Sony’s graffiti scandal and The Great Boston Ad Scare. They get it. In conference rooms and on beanbags around the country, they’re wondering if connecting with hip, Internet-era consumers takes more than just edgy advertising.
Maybe, they're thinking, it takes advertising that puts everyone else on edge.
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- Seth Godin | Cynical
- Previously in Scatterbox | Sony says being a public nuisance is really stealth marketing and then is surprised when people they haven’t paid write negative stuff like this.
- Boing Boing | State of Massachusetts insists on calling ATHF ads "hoax devices"