Today (Feb. 1, 2007) Turner Broadcasting System was reeling from a PR nightmare after a guerrilla marketing campaign for the AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE feature set off a terror scare in Boston. The Adult Swim marketing department had approved the campaign giving lightbox ads to New York-based guerrilla marketer Interference Inc. The ads were placed in 40 locations throughout 10 cities two to three weeks ago. However, some Boston citizens saw the ads and called police afraid of a bomb attack, spurring 10 hours of traffic jams and closed bridges.
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. chairman/ceo Phil Kent, commenting on the incident, said, "We apologize to the citizens of Boston that part of a marketing campaign was mistaken for a public danger. We appreciate the gravity of this situation and, like any responsible company would, are putting all necessary resources toward understanding the facts surrounding it as quickly as possible. As soon as we realized that an element of the campaign was being mistaken for something potentially dangerous, appropriate law enforcement officials were notified and through Federal law enforcement channels, we identified the specific locations of the advertisements in all 10 cities in which they are posted. We also directed the third-party marketing firm who posted the advertisements to take them down immediately. We appreciate the commitment demonstrated by the Boston police department and other law enforcement agencies, as well as the Massachusetts Governor's Office, and deeply regret the hardships experienced as a result of this incident."
However, city and state officials are pressing to have Turner reimburse the city and state for the costs of the incident. Kent has called Boston Mayor Tom Menino to apologize for the problems that the campaign caused.