Saturday, February 03, 2007

Boston Beat: Truth in Advertising...

Undoubtedly, anybody worldly enough to be reading this blog must have heard about the scare Boston experienced this week over the strange little lit signboards scattered across the area, advertising the Cartoon Network show Aquateen Hunger Force. This little ad campaign, known as guerrilla advertising because people are hired to simple place the ads all over, was performed in metropolitan areas nationwide. However, only Boston had the scare.

Commentators have noted that this whole thing belies a generation gap between teen/twenty-something age group and their parents/elders. The fans of the show, described primarily, but not exclusively as the "stoner set," often found the whole hullabaloo funny. It is unlikely that panicked at all when confronted with the little lighted figures from the show. In fact, many have commented that the response in Boston, however good, was an overreaction.

There is some good in knowing that Boston and State police were able to respond quickly, efficiently, and do so with, despite traffic and MBTA tie ups, a minimum of fuss. I rode the T to purchase a train ticket that day and knew nothing about the slowdowns. I did not hear about it until the next day in Globe. However, others, myself included, believe that this represents a double edged sword. It is EXCELLENT that people are vigilant. The jerks who placed these signs in Boston and elsewhere should have told police about them, if not discreetly, as this type of ad campaign could violate permitting laws. However, it is also a commentary about paranoia. When does vigilance become paranoia? When does paranoia dismiss all reason and common sense? These are important questions we must be prepared to ask.

Now the two twerps accused of this thing, inappropriately termed a hoax by officials, deserve what is coming to them. As stated, they did not alert authorities about placing these ads, they stayed quiet during the turmoil, and the smug little bastards laughed their way through a makeshift press conference. In addition, unlike in the other cities, they placed them in places (bridges, tunnels, etc) which seem to be targets for attacks anyway. Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens, from certain sources, were not simply laughing out of fear. Contrary to what one of their grandparents said, the very much thought the situation hilarious. Needless to say, for the sake of appearance, one of the suspects lawyers issued a statement expressing their client's regret.

Turner Broadcasting, the owner of Cartoon Network admirably stepped forward and agreed to compensate state and municipal authorities for the cost of the operations. All told it will probably cost between 1 and 2 million dollars. But hold your applause. Turner will make that back, if it has not already, simply from boosted viewership of the show. Controversy breeds interests, and while inflated numbers will be soft, advertisers (ironically), will pay up to put their junk on Aquateen. Some sources suggest one ad buy, before the incident, for the show cost about $750,000 or roughly what the city of Boston estimates its response costs were.

In that same vein, despite the fact that Turner will make off like bandits from this, the state and city should not be greedy and attempt to induce some pain and suffers ancillary damages. Everybody should just be happy that their response was effective. Ask Turner for the cost of the response. They'll hand it over willingly. Turning this into a legal battle benefits nobody. The taxpayers will end up the losers that way. Turner already did the adult thing by apologizing. In a society that rarely acts like that, we don't need to antagonize further.

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