As Boston continues to overreact to Cartoon Network’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force stunt gone wrong, word comes that a Heights man’s marketing company is behind Beantown’s faux “day of terror”:
NY Daily News: A bonehead publicity stunt virtually shut down Boston yesterday – and authorities blamed a Greenwich Village guerrilla marketing firm for the chaos. Interference Marketing, an edgy company that touts its “unconventional methods,” installed blinking magnetic devices depicting a cartoon character flashing its middle finger on highways and overpasses – and even in a hospital – across Beantown. Interference CEO Sam Ewen, who lives in Brooklyn Heights, was said to be out of town.
This is not the first Interference stunt that has gone sideways as Ewen told MediaLife Magazine in 2001:
Have there been any that have gone completely awry?
That is one of the risks you run. You’re often creating these emotive, experiential campaigns, and sometimes the experiences aren’t always positive. We’ve had our fair share of people arrested, a lot of citations given. We’ve done a lot of college guerilla marketing where you end up getting thrown off campus and asked never to come back. Luckily no one has ever gotten hurt. We did one for TheStreet.com where the campaign was “Listen to the whispers of Wall Street.” We went to every phone booth in the Wall Street area in New York and put up these stickers that had ears on them. The problem was that the people we hired to do this got a little too excited about it, and they started putting stickers everywhere. They put them on the front door of the New York Stock Exchange, and at the NASDAQ as well.
Wall Street is an extremely clean area, so we got slapped pretty hard on the wrist and told either to clean them up or be charged $75 for every sticker that’s out there. And we put up 3,000 of them. So we ended up sending the exact same team out the next night and removing every one they put up. Nothing as bad as what IBM just went through.
Marketing pros are disagree on whether Ewen’s stunt went to far:
Boston Herald: “Guerrilla marketing never offends people, it never frightens people, and it never breaches ethics,” said Jay Conrad Levinson, the “father of guerrilla marketing” and author of “Guerrilla Marketing” books that have sold 14 million.
There’s a fine line with any sort of guerrilla marketing, said Chip Tuttle, CEO of Conover Tuttle Pace, a Boston advertising and PR firm. “I know there’s the ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ school of thought, but this one really tests that premise,” he said.
But Jamie Tedford, senior vice president for Hub ad agency Arnold Worldwide, said Interference’s effort has morphed into a successful viral campaign online. “It spread more rapidly because of the controversy, but the fact that it has become a controversy has contributed to its success,” he said.