Aqua Teen Hunger Force Promotion Bombs

Cartoon Network promo goes way wrong, sparking bomb scares in Boston and threats of criminal charges

By Joal Ryan Feb 01, 2007 3:36 AMTags

In hindsight, complimentary bags of Frylock fries would have worked better.

But without the benefit of hindsight, if not a clue, the powers that be behind Aqua Teen Hunger Force decided to promote the Cartoon Network animated series by deploying little blinking light boards in various outdoor locations across 10 major U.S. cities.

All went well until Wednesday morning in Boston, when, as the Boston Globe reported, a commuter spotted one of the blinking light boards in a bus station. Soon, there were reports of other blinking light boards throughout the city, some near bridges and highways.

All hell promptly broke loose.

Traffic was stalled and nerves frayed as authorities scrambled to determine if the suspicious devices—10 in all—were dangerous, incendiary devices.

It didn't take long to see that the battery-powered boards, some with exposed wires, weren't bombs. And it didn't take long to see that the Aqua Teen Hunger Force promotion was a bomb. A big one.

"We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger," said a statement from Turner Broadcasting, parent of the Cartoon Network.

Turner fessed up to the unorthodox "billboards" Wednesday afternoon. It said the light boxes were part of "an outdoor marketing campaign" that had been undertaken in 10 cities: New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and, obviously, Boston.

Only the blinking light boards in Boston prompted a scare. But Turner wasn't taking anymore chances. It said it was contacting local and federal law enforcement, and divulging the "exact locations" of all of its Aqua Teen Hunger Force promos, in all of the cities.

Turner's make-good actions weren't cutting it with authorities who'd just lived through a day suited for Jack Bauer.

"It is outrageous, in a post 9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme," Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement.

Menino, as well as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, broached the possibility of legal action against Turner, which is a division of Time Warner.

The Associated Press identified the brains behind the promotional misfire as the New York City-based firm Interference Inc. That company's Website was down Wednesday night; its CEO unavailable for comment, the wire service said.

It was not known if the Aqua Teen Hunger Force "billboards" were supposed to be hyping the Cartoon Network series, which debuted in 2000, or the upcoming feature with the Borat-esque title, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, due out Mar. 23.

As the franchise's Cartoon Network site explains, members of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force are neither teens, nor especially water-worthy. Rather, they are a ragtag band of talking things you might find at a really weird drive-thru: a box of fries known as Frylock, a milkshake cup known as Master Shake, and a "shape-shifting round glob of meat" known as Meatwad.

Then there are the Mooninites.

According to reports, these two creatures—moon creatures that could pass for graphics on an Atari 2600 videogame system—are the ones depicted in the now-infamous blinking light boards.

One of the Mooninites is called Ignignokt. The other is called Err.

An apt name given Wednesday's events.