Last summer's action film "Snakes on a Plane" tried a new promotion that sent people to a Web site so they could send their friends a phone message. The movie's star Samuel L. Jackson would call and in a partially personalized recorded message urge people to see the movie.
But the system overloaded and in many cases phones rang but the message was missing.
The most famous promotion mishap occurred in January in Boston where citizens and police mistook dozens of blinking electronic devices showing a crude cartoon character for bombs. The campaign for the Cartoon Network's "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" backfired miserably. Police shut down bridges and the entire city of Boston went on terror alert.
In the end, the head of the Cartoon Network resigned and Turner Broadcasting and an advertising agency involved agreed to pay Boston $2 million in compensation for the emergency response. The Cartoon Network is a division of Turner Broadcasting, whose parent is Time Warner.
Neisser said he didn't foresee any such problems with "The Simpsons" promotion.
"No one is going to freak out and call the cops when their 7-Eleven is suddenly a Kwik-E-Mart," he said. "My guess is that many won't even notice but those that do will feel like insiders, which is one the true measures of a successful guerrilla effort."
These marketing techniques are aimed at cutting through all the clutter in the traditional marketing areas of TV and radio, said Kevin Corbett, a professor at Central Michigan University's School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts.
But he said what was truly unique about the 7-Eleven campaign was that it jumped back to one of the oldest forms of advertising: storefront ads.
Many stores still use sandwich board-style advertising, he said.
"In an age where the costs of promoting and marketing a movie can be greater than the actual production costs, these 'old-school' marketing techniques are kind of interesting," Corbett said. "Whether or not they're effective is another matter."
Stephanie Sigg, a freelance art director who worked for a number of ad agencies and other places in the entertainment industry, said advertisers were now trying to create "brand experiences." She said people were looking for new ways to activate and entice an audience.
Will a campaign at 12 stores really draw millions of people to the movie?
"I think this effort is designed to get the hard-core "Simpsons" fans excited and in seats opening weekend," Neisser said. "If they go in droves, they can then spread the word to the less enthusiastic fence sitters."
Several of those fans were packed into a New York 7-Eleven Monday afternoon buying any product they could. The store ran out of the KrustyO's by 1 p.m.
Jill Duboff of New York spent $18.09 on "Simpsons" goods in the store near Times Square. Her purchases included some Buzz cola and copies of the "Radioactive Man" comic book.
"I'm so happy. I'm such a huge 'Simpsons' fan," she said on the way out of the store.
So will this promotion make her more likely to see the film?
"I would have seen the movie anyway," she said, "but I would not have shopped at 7-Eleven otherwise."