Boston Center Stage Again In Guerrilla Campaign Foolery
Does this sound familiar? "There had been no complaints in the 22 other cities in the United States and Canada that were part of the promotion." Ding, ding! Yes, Boston is front and center once again in guerrilla marketing news. Launched January 23, just days before the cartoon Network debacle, Dr. Pepper held a 23-city hunt for coins that would ultimately lead to a $1 million prize. Contestants would find codes under bottle caps, enter those codes into a special website and be given additional clues to physical locations throughout the 23 cities where they would find the coins. The coins would then be redeemed for between $10,000 and $1 million.
Dr. Pepper parent Cadbury Schweppes canceled the campaign after hearing Boston officials had closed the 347 year old Granary Burying Ground (originally closed due to icy paths, not the contest), the location of one of the final coins. The cemetery stayed closed once officials realized all the people trying to get in were in search of the coin, not to tour grave sites.
Gamers were pissed, angry they couldn't complete the final step towards the prize. Officials were pissed with Boston Parks Commissioner Toni Pollak saying, "It's absolutely is disrespectful. It's an affront to the people who are buried there, our nation's ancestors.", Cadbury Schweppes was contrite saying, through spokesman Greg Artkop, "We agree with the Park Department's decision to lock the gates. We wouldn't do anything to desecrate this cemetery."
The coins were hidden by Lauderhill, Florida-based PromoWatch who was hired by Norwalk Connecticut-based Circle One Marketing who, in turn was hired by Dr. Pepper. Everyone's apologizing. No bomb squads were called but Park officials may ask Cadbury to pay for the additional police details that were needed to keep people out of the cemetery. The contest winner will now be determined by a drawing
Whether it be coincidence or Boston's zero tolerance for shenanigans, marketers planning future guerrilla-style campaigns would be wise to leave Boston off the list. Or at least not include 347 year old, historical landmarks in their plans.
Despite all of this, Dr. Pepper did award a million dollar prize to 23 year old Laura Janisch of Houston, Texas.