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Guerilla Marketing in Post 9/11 America

Zebro on Boston’s Aqua Teen Bomb Scare [NSFW]

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Zebro on Boston’s Aqua Teen Bomb Scare [NSFW]

At first I was hesitant to write about the electronic ads for Aqua Teen Hunger Force that set off the Boston Lite-Brite evacuations because, once I saw a picture of one of the devices, it became difficult for me to take the concerns raised very seriously.

To me, the Boston response was an overreaction to a street art campaign that had already successfully launched in multiple cities. As Adisa Banjoko put it to me today, the “nation has to be at its most hypersensitive level when Lite-Brites are shutting down Boston.” And, in the first day or so, I felt myself returning to the near-total shutdown of free speech after 9/11.

However, I’ve been heartened to find that a wide range of people share my opinion that the response was overdone, including King County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Urquhart who stated:
In this day and age, whenever anything remotely suspicious shows up, people get concerned – and that’s good…However, people don’t need to be concerned about this. These are cartoon characters giving the finger.

Business Week blogger Burt Helm says:
If I saw these things on the way from Manhattan to Brooklyn my reaction would have been less “It’s a bomb!” and more “stupid hipsters and their weird street art.”

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His colleague Jon Fine states:
When I saw a version of this image…on a billboard at night in lower Manhattan, I thought it was about the coolest ad I’d ever seen.

Now, I’m not buying into the idea that Boston is less sophisticated than all the other cities that recognized the street art element, but it is a good reminder of an important point beyond the fact that the real terrorists are still riding high off 9/11, both here and abroad.

Though I may be sounding flip, I’m absolutely serious when I say that decent art education may be one of our nation’s best defenses in a media saturated environment in which reality and fantasy are quite blurred. Mix in some serious media criticism and folks will have better tools for encountering the unexpected in a productively fluid manner rather than with a fatally rigid approach.

Clyde Smith • ProHipHop • clyde(at)prohiphop(dot)com