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Marketing Bomb

Just last week I wrote about the latest public project of the Graffiti Research Lab the Anti-Advertising Agency. I said "latest" because these guys have done their share of projects. So, what happens when you put the tools of a small, independent guerilla prankster in the hands of a marketing machine? Apparently, a bomb scare.

Steve Lambert has a great post over at the Anti-Advertising Agency explaining the background behind the advertisement-that-looks-like-a-Hollywood-explosive-from-1950. The short version? A very cool underground project to circulate ideas about the effect of advertising gets coopted by advertising itself. Not surprisingly, once moved from passion to promotion, it goes wrong. As Steve said,

Again and again, as advertisers desperately try to break through the clutter they create, they try more desperate methods. The perfect irony to this story is that advertisers can’t get it right. What attracted the attention of the bomb squad was the wiring, circuitry, and large batteries that Interference Inc. added to the G.R.L.'s original design in order to be more financially efficient. Once it was discovered as harmless, Interfrence’s next problem was the media’s derision because it was yet another desperate attempt to put advertising in front of people’s eyes.

The only thing I disagree with is the conclusion that the media "derision" was a problem for the marketer. I assume they are comfortable with the "any publicity is good publicity" - the media coverage of the bomb scare outstrips anything they would have received for the L.E.D. displays themselves. And therein lies the conundrum.

How do you criticize something without simultaneously promoting it. Even this post is doing its part to promote both the campaign and the underlying product. You can try to not mention the product - an approach taken by Tim McIntire - but unless you know the story going in, you don't know who to be mad at when it is all over. And so, you can only try to point out the offenders and hope that you convince enough people that you are right that you overcome the parasitic advertisement that hitches a ride on your critique.

And what do you do when you love the underlying product? I've been a huge fan of Aqua Teen Hunger Force since it started airing and I know people who have worked on it. I don't actually want to punish the artists behind the cartoon just because I am mad at the marketing method (even though I probably should). I am going to keep watching ATHF but I am giving the marketing imbeciles the finger AS HARD AS I CAN!

Posted by Charles Star on 02/01/2007 | Permalink


Issues of advertising aside, what I find most stunning is that the Boston police actually entertained the idea that "terrorists" may have thought it'd be fun to make bombs with illuminated little pixel guys on them. And no actual bomb hardware at all. Who works in the Boston police department? Amish guys? Even someone who's knowledge of electronics is limited to breaking open a clock radio could have seen that those 'bombs' were batteries, LEDs, some resistors, and that's about it. If these are suspect for being bombs, then Boston is riddled with potential bombs, bombs that are as we speak directing the flow of traffic, routing phone calls, and doing all those millions of other things that boxes with wires do.

Posted by: Jason Torchinsky | Feb 1, 2007 6:31:13 PM

Wait -- why not boycott Aqua Teen? Your friends can certainly make other cartoons -- however, this lame stunt is not so separable from the show itself -- which has always projected a kind of obnoxious action-figurine/t-shirt/catchphrase frivolity.
The only show on that network I've seen that embodies this even more than Aqua Teen is that 12ozMouse. I'm surprised there was no 'guerilla stunt' of putting dead mice in people's mailboxes or something.

Posted by: foo bear | Feb 2, 2007 1:59:52 AM

What fucking tools these two guys are.

Posted by: nancyfreeman | Feb 2, 2007 2:05:04 PM

Two pathetic corpor-shills. The reporters at the press conference should have asked them how long they've been lovers. Oh, and I'm glad "Rasta Man" likes his hairstyle... the way his hair is looking at his hairline, he's not going to have it long. Enjoy it now, bud. You Rule!

Posted by: KingsLeadHat | Feb 3, 2007 10:47:40 AM

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