The head of Cartoon Network resigned Friday after the network's guerilla marketing scheme for one of its shows went bad last week and led to a bomb scare in Boston - a fiasco that cost its parent company $2 million.
In a letter to employees, Jim Samples, the general manager and executive vice president of the network, wrote: "I deeply regret the negative publicity and expense caused to our company as a result of this campaign. As general manager of Cartoon Network, I feel compelled to step down, effective immediately, in recognition of the gravity of the situation that occurred under my watch."
while the media narrative remains that this was a "marketing scheme... gone bad", this shows a fundamental ignorance of the whole point of guerilla marketing.
the idea behind guerilla marketing is that our society is so saturated with traditional advertising that marketers have begun adopting the methods of street art/graffiti and other unconventional techniques in order to break through all the chatter. in this sense, the athf campaign was the most successful guerilla marketing campaign of all time!
just think about it: for days, the news cycle was completely dominated by news about aqua teen hunger force... less than two months before the athf movie comes out. countless millions of people who would never have heard of the aqua teens now know the name of the show, if not basic information about it. while older, out-of-touch authority figures were freaking out on tv, the show's target demographic got the joke and flooded the blogosphere with posts supporting the show and laughing at the media's (and particularly the city of boston's) alarmist reaction.
Turner Broadcasting System and Interference Inc. agreed to pay $2 million to make amends for last Wednesday's bomb scare in Boston, the Massachusetts attorney general said Monday. TBS is the parent of the Cartoon Network, which initiated the marketing scheme. CNN, CNNMoney.com and TBS are all owned by Time Warner Inc. (Charts), the world's largest media company.
$2 million is chump change in terms of marketing dollars. (a single super-bowl commercial costs more.) turner got way more than $2 million worth of marketing value out of this campaign. that kind of media attention and name recognition is practically priceless: you simply can't buy it with any amount of money spent in traditional marketing channels. and, i repeat because it's so important, the athf movie comes out next month! no guerilla marketer, in their wildest dreams, could ever imagine a campaign as successful as this one.
i'm left wondering whether there could be something else going on, whether there could be internal politics involved, and whether management had been looking for a reason to sack samples for some time. because he certainly didn't do anything wrong here, and this campaign absolutely didn't hurt the company or its reputation (quite the contrary, in marketing terms). so either the management at turner doesn't really understand what happened with the athf campaign (which would be pathetic), or the idea that samples was fired over the campaign is just a cover story and he really resigned for some other reason.¶