Sunday, February 04, 2007

Boston shocker

A lot of news sites are drawing comparisons this week with the Orson Welles War Of The Worlds radio broadcast and an advertising stunt that went badly wrong in Boston. Bizarrely, the culprit was The Cartoon Network, or to be more precise, an ad agency working on their behalf. It appears that The Cartoon Network hired a company called New York-based Interference Inc to run a gorilla ad campaign for the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force. This involved pasting up flashing electronic signs across the city. These were spotted and the alarm was raised, with the police called out and a massive anti-terrorism response triggered. Part of the problem was that the signs bore a slight resemblance to circuit boards, but probably the biggest single reason for the panic that resulted was the choice of location. Sticking them on bridges and underpasses was really asking for trouble in the present climate, but equally you have to wonder how people were so concerned at something that clearly looked so innocuous; it hardly seems likely that Al Qaeda would build bombs to look like cartoon characters (or am I giving them ideas?) Why indeed did the same campaign pass off without comment in other cities? I guess this really does show how easy it would be to trigger one hell of a panic with the right triggers, though I think the really interesting part of this story is that just about every news item I have read in the past few days concerning this event references Orson Welles. It’s actually a bit of a weak connection to make, but it proves there's life in the old dog yet.