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.

Written by Steve Hall    Comments (6)     File: Guerilla     Feb-24-07  
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Speaking as a Bostonian (well, a Somerviller, actually), I'd say the city should continue to be embarrassed about overreacting to the ATHF campaign for a long time. This, however, sounds like it's different. Marketing campaigns really shouldn't cause people to go digging around in historical graveyards.

Posted by: Robert Gladstein [TypeKey Profile Page] on February 24, 2007 04:20 PM

On the other hand...
A small budget marketing opportunity might exist for a "lesser" company to go for Boston BECAUSE OF their sensitivity. Think about it... they may get much wider press coverage through the news story than through their paid marketing efforts.

They get their names associated with industry giants as well as generating additional curiosity about their product(s). How many people were first familiarized with ATHF solely by the city's response to the CN campaign?

Posted by: Kamau Jackson on February 24, 2007 09:37 PM

We're really not overly sensitive. The mooninite incident was the exception, not the rule. We're actually proud of some similar things, although they don't happen to be associate with marketing. Think of all the MIT hacks that have been done over the years. They're like guerrilla marketing without the marketing.

I remember a few years back, when IBM hired people to stencil the Linux penguin all over Cambridge. Yes, the city was pissed over it, but so were a number of other cities where the same thing was done.

Posted by: Robert Gladstein [TypeKey Profile Page] on February 25, 2007 12:52 PM

Jeez, man, would you be okay with "treasure hunters" digging around an historic graveyard in your city? Several of them showed up with shovels for God's sake.

The coin was found under the tombstone slab of one of the graves. Forget that it's the graveyard where Sam Adams and others are laid to rest.

What if that was your Mom or Dad's resting place?

This promotion was just plain idiotic.

Posted by: Bob on February 26, 2007 08:55 AM

No one showed up with shovels. I was there. It was in the rules that there was to be no digging, and NO ONE had any shovels or digging implements, and no one was thinking about digging.

Posted by: Amy on February 26, 2007 12:07 PM

Amy, even if that's true (and it's contrary to several news reports), what make you think it's acceptable to go rooting around an historic graveyard? That's just rude, unacceptable behavior.

From the Boston Globe:

"Dr. Pepper's gold coin was in the Granary Burying Ground the entire time, tucked behind the lip on a slab of slate covering the entrance to an almost 200-year-old crypt.

The parks department knew nothing of the marketing campaign until it was deluged with more than 100 phone calls this week from angry people demanding access to the graveyard. But officials kept it closed because of fears that the treasure hunters would damage the fragile headstones and disturb the cemetery. Founded in 1660, the burial ground is also the final resting place of Robert Treat Paine, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Peter Faneuil, benefactor and namesake of the famed downtown landmark; James Otis, a Revolutionary orator and lawyer; five victims of the Boston Massacre; and the remains of an estimated 5,000 other people."

To quote you, "sheez."

Posted by: Bob on February 26, 2007 04:32 PM

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