If you want to blow up ads, I've got a list

February 06, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND


I would never be so insensitive as to make light of a potential terrorist situation. On the other hand, the City of Boston did blow up an electronic cartoon character. So where do I go from here?

It's hard to write humor in today's complex world.

Apparently it's even harder to be an advertising rep. The objects in question included 38 lighted, magnetic signs slapped up around the city to promote a late-night cartoon show that no one has ever heard of. Until now.

What the city of Boston took for the work of terrorists was actually the work of Turner Broadcasting advertising geniuses, who were trying to drum up buzz for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."


How did we get from Aqua Teen Hunger Force to a plot to destroy the Great Satan? In Boston's defense, and I'm trying here boys, I'm really trying, some of the signs were affixed to bridges, an obvious municipal pressure point. And the signs, lit, are pretty obviously just that. But I take it that unlit they look more sinister because they have wires and circuitry.

But all that gets you right back to the fact that the city of Boston blew up a cartoon character. With a water cannon.

All I could think of when I saw an image of these squared-off, rodentesque characters was Bill Murray going after the gopher in "Caddyshack." "Nothing to be alarmed about, it's just your friend, Mr. Squirrel."

Boston, however, had two words for Turner Broadcasting: Not Funny.

The city squealed to a panic-stricken stop, the likes of which have not been seen since a pregnant African woman in Hagerstown threw up.

Now the city wants to put the guys in jail and throw away the key and make Turner pay the costs of the massive police deployment.

The poor dudes who perpetuated the blitz were arrested and face up to five years in the calaboose. Boston wants Turner to pay for the turmoil, over which city officials were reportedly "livid."

You have to wonder though if they were livid over the stunt, or over the embarrassment of - and I hate myself for returning to this point again and again - having blown up a cartoon character. With a water cannon.

Elmer Fudd never put it to Bugs Bunny, but the city of Boston might.

Lucky they only blew it up, when they might have put it in an iron kettle with carrots and potatoes while saying "One wabbit stew, coming ..." STOP IT, I'm SORRY, don't make me do this.

In our elevated sense of justified paranoia, I'm thinking there are going to be mistakes on both sides. People will do dumb things. Governments will overreact. It's kind of a wash. Both sides can learn a bit of a lesson and move on. Without criminal charges or a million lawsuits.

From what I hear, a half-dozen other cities were subjected to the same ad blitz and no one sheared a pin.

Which may be too bad. Because if Boston, or anyone else, wants to destroy advertisers, I have a long list. Start with the guy who dreams of buying a farm (if only) "with a stable, you know, for the horses," so his family can gather 'round at holidays and he can pass it on to future generations.

First of all, gramps, most of us are already aware that stables house horses. But thanks anyway for the lesson in equestrian agriculture. Second, you're dreaming. The minute you are on a slab the kiddos are gonna sell the estate and buy sports cars. Deal with it.

They could blow up all those Coors commercials where it's 100 degrees outside until the beer train comes through and turns everything to icicles, and the women react by - cold weather is known to do this - hugging all the men.

And please, please, please, blow up all those ads where the men are all the time having to go the bathroom in the middle of the movie, until they take some kind of drug which allows them to drive around in a convertible high-fiveing each other with bottled water.

So there's the answer. Next time Boston has an urge to blow up a marketing campaign, don't call the bomb squad. Call me.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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