The Tune In: Cartoons, Not a Laughing Matter


For those of you who didn?t hear the news over the last couple of weeks, Cartoon Network created a marketing campaign in Boston placing select blue-LED light characters from their Adult Swim block around the city like the one above.? When the stunt caught national attention, the network saw a viewer ship spike of around 20%, a huge jump. Network online traffic saw even larger rises of more than 70%.

Everyone is happy, right?

Of course not.? Due to the look and placement of the pieces, local and national authorities quickly flagged the marketing stunt as a potential national security issue.? Nine of the installations caused a shutdown of I-93, two bridges, and boat traffic on the Charles River.? A bomb squad seized one of the devices and attempted to detonate the package.

Tangible fallout for Cartoon network has consisted of GM Jim Samples tendering his resignation, as well as a $2M payment by Time Warner?s Cartoon Network to the city of Boston to cover costs from the debacle.??? The third-party marketing team as well as Cartoon Network staff could face two to five years of imprisonment, as well.? Intangible negatives include image denigration from negative media coverage as well as negative association for parent?s whose children watch Cartoon Network daytime programming.

This shows us that we always have to think about unintended consequences of our actions.? There are three ways we can see unintended consequences:

  1. Positive unexpected benefit ? example: working all night on a presentation because you have an important meeting gains you not only the account, but then your boss treats you to a free pair of Knicks tickets.
  2. Potential source of new problems ? example: your working with an office friend on a project doesn?t allow you to be as frank as you need to be to give the necessary feedback.
  3. Negative unexpected effects ? example: as in the case of Cartoon Network, the marketing campaign caused negative financial and legal impact.

When making any important decisions one must always think about the anticipated upshot, as well as any possible consequences of the action.

Read More:

The Register – Unintended Consequences

Time Warner

Wikipedia – Adult Swim

4 thoughts on “The Tune In: Cartoons, Not a Laughing Matter

  1. Ok, I absolutely do NOT understand how that is a national security issue.. The shape and the placement??? Can somebody explain it to me? I come from a place with virtually no threats of terrorism..

    1. There are a few explanations. Some on the younger media side would say that it is a product of a complete generation disconnect. A complete misunderstanding of current marketing, especially given the icon itself. The older media would say that it was an out-of-hand sensationalist ploy out of tune with current global affairs. In the end, national security is always a hot-bed issue. The old couple upstairs will always think the younger couple next door is playing “hippie drug music” even if it is simply the sweet soothing sounds of Maroon 5 or John Mayer, just notched up a bit too loudly. Similarly, anything that even smells slightly of terror will be flagged and made to be a bigger deal that it is. Always make an impact, but be ready to absorb the consequences, good and bad.

  2. I STILL don’t really get it but thats OK… I guess the states is a lot more sensitive towards these things?
    I love Vancouver haha. Anything slides.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *