Cartoon characters aren’t bombs

Jen Steer

When I tuned in to CNN last week, there were two crazy guys, who looked like they had not showered in weeks, rambling on about Afros. My first reaction was “CNN must be having a pretty lousy news day.”

The two men, Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky, were actually just released after being arrested for a guerilla marketing campaign. Their lawyer told them not to talk about the case, so they opted to speak about hair cuts from the ’70s instead. Good choice, guys.

According to a poll on the Boston Herald’s Web site, 53 percent of people thought the press conference helped make the media look stupid. Five percent said it educated people on ’70s hairdos. Those crazy hippies.

Stevens and Berdovsky managed to shut down most of Boston on Wednesday when they helped put up light boards in the shape of cartoon characters. Although the boards were advertisements for Cartoon Network’s “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” people thought the devices were bombs. The two have been charged with putting “hoax devices” in the city. Some say they incited panic.

This incident, while the first of it’s kind to get major mainstream media attention, is not the first guerilla marketing campaign. The “Truth” campaign has been setting up massive amounts of body bags and lining cities with chalk outlines for a few years.

The most recent commercials featured ice sculptures of pregnant women with dolls inside their bellies. These commercials are just annoying to me, but they do get some people’s attention.

The incident in Boston is far from the classic example of yelling fire in a movie theater. People are stupid. A person can be smart. So when you have a bunch of oblivious people, panic ensues. In this post-9/11 world, it seems like everyone has lost their sense of humor.

This situation has been blown out of proportion because this country is completely paranoid. In all honesty, al-Qaida is not going to make bombs shaped like cartoons. Let’s just use some common sense, people. The light boards were placed near bus stations, bridges and even a hospital – all of which are good places to detonate a bomb, or good places to advertise. What do terrorists and advertisers have in common? Location matters.

Now Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wants to ban what he has called a “nitwit technique.” He also went on using the word “nitwit” an excessive amount of times. He said the incident cost the city at least $500,000. But in order to ban it, how do you define guerilla advertising? I can just see the law now: “Light up signs with cartoons giving the city the finger will no longer be permitted within the city limits.”

The whole premise of guerilla marketing is to be non-traditional, and sometimes that requires making people think. It’s hard to do a lot of the time. No wonder Cartoon Network and Turner Broadcasting were ready to do something a little more extreme. We’re all still talking about the goofy, hair-obsessed performance artists and their stunt, so I guess it all worked. Well, aside from the fines Turner has agreed to pay to the city.

Jen Steer is a junior broadcast news major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].