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Thursday, February 1, 2007
Following up on the lead provided them -- one can only assume -- by Brainiac, last night the Boston Globe interviewed Todd Vanderlin, the Bostonian blogger who first recognized the battery-powered contraptions that scared Bostonians yesterday for what they were: a marketing stunt.
Here's a funny line from today's Globe:
"Repeat after me, authorities. L-E-D. Not I-E-D. Get it?" one 29-year-old blogger from Malden wrote on his website, contrasting light emitting diodes with improvised explosive devices.
When someone from Malden is less clueless than our city's police force and elected officials, it's time to get worried.
I don't have anything to add to the debate over whether or not Turner Broadcasting System and the guerrilla marketing outfit Interference Inc. should have known that these devices might have alarmed people. On the one hand, Boston police and city officials demonstrated how ignorant they are about pop culture, guerrilla marketing, and technology, and then got embarrassed, which is why they're so angry now. On the other hand, if you watch the video of the marketing crew installing the Mooninite devices on the BU Bridge, the Charles MGH T stop, and elsewhere, it does feel kinda like you're watching a terrorist plot on an unsuspecting Boston, and you can see why the police should have reacted (but not overreacted). So I'm on the fence. I don't, for example, find the T-shirt all that funny. UPDATE: OK, I do like these T-shirts.
But one question remains: If these devices (as we've now heard) were installed in 10 other cities, including New York -- where a terrorist attack has actually happened -- as long as three weeks ago, why was Boston the only city to misinterpret their nature and freak out?
Perhaps the answer is that (a) Bostonians are far less sophisticated than urbanites in other parts of the country, including what we like to imagine is the backward Midwest, and, more controversially, (b) Bostonians remain, in some sick, twisted way, jealous of New York because terrorists deemed a NY landmark world-famous enough to be targeted for attack. Anyone who followed local news coverage in the days after 9/11 knows exactly what I'm talking about. But in analyzing the Mooninite affair, will any of our local pundits ever admit it?
Globe columnist Adrian Walker asked the right question today:
It is interesting that the same marketing campaign is underway in several other cities, including Chicago and San Francisco, without causing the mass freak-out it did here.
But he immediately backed off from the embarrassing truth:
Maybe people are less observant there, or perhaps the billboards were planted in less conspicuous locations. That isn't clear yet.
OK... So Bostonians are more observant than folks in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, and besides -- the guerrilla marketers in those cities didn't really want to get the message out, so they hid the ads?
Can't wait to see what other analysts have to say. Readers, email me if you come across any good essays or columns about this topic!
UPDATE: BID ON A MOONINITE DEVICE! Going for $5,000 on eBay. It's a certified Boston Mooninite, and the seller has offered to donate some of the proceeds to bail out Peter Berdovsky, the poor sap who was hired to install the devices. As someone who once spent a couple of days fly-postering around Boston and Hartford to make a fast buck from a marketing firm, I feel for Berdovsky -- he's being railroaded! Set him free!