Advertisers Beware: Boston Doesn't Like Surprises
Feb. 23, 2007— -- For the second time in less than a month, Bostonians are all alone in balking at an ad campaign moving through their city -- and just like last time, they're getting paid for it.
Cadbury Schweppes PLC, the candy and soft drink manufacturer that makes Dr Pepper soda, has canceled a treasure hunt promotion in an historic Boston cemetery. City officials locked down the site, the Granary Burying Ground, where the soda maker had hidden a coin that might be worth $1 million.
Dr Pepper's "The Hunt for More" campaign, which began on Jan. 23, challenged contestants to collect 23 "hidden treasures," or coins, in 23 cities across the country.
The clue for the Boston location led contestants to the Granary Burying Ground, a 347-year-old landmark where Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere -- among other prominent American patriots -- are buried.
When Boston officials learned of the campaign, they promptly locked the gates of the cemetery and dispatched security guards, preventing contestants from entering to search for the prized coin, which was hidden inside a leather pouch among the graves.
Of the 23 cities involved in the Dr Pepper promotion, Boston was the only one to complain.
Earlier this month, Boston was alone in derailing another multi-city marketing campaign, when it was the unwitting and unamused target of another guerrilla marketing campaign for the Cartoon Network show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."
That campaign, which involved light fixtures hung at different point around the city -- including bridges and roadways -- caused a daylong pandemonium, with local, state and federal officials treating the fixtures as potential explosives.
Boston was roasted by some for an overly aggressive response to the perceived "terrorist" threat, which caused no problems in the nine other cities targeted in the campaign.
Still, the campaign led the Cartoon Network president to resign, cost parent company Turner Broadcasting System $2 million for the disturbance, and led to the arrests of the two men who posted the signs through the city.
On Friday, Boston City Council President Maureen E. Feeney, responding to the Dr Pepper campaign, said she would hold public hearings about how to fight guerilla marketing.
"It is intolerable that companies should exploit city resources at the expense of public safety and even historic property for a cheap promotion," Feeney said in a statement. "As a city government, we must act to prevent the negative impact of these marketing activities."
Combined, the reactions to the two ad campaigns beg the question: Has Boston lost its sense of humor?