6 Marvelously Misguided Promotions

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I know, I know ... it's not easy launching a new product, or getting new customers to drop by your establishment for the first time, or advertising a movie. But if there's one lesson I've learned from these misguided promotions, it's that not all publicity is necessarily good publicity.

6. The CashTomato riot

Take, for example, the near-riot caused in NYC's Union Square when an upstart YouTube competitor called Cash Tomato started handing out tomatoes wrapped in dollar bills:

(By the way, I would've embedded Cashtomato.com's "top-rated" version of this video, but it wasn't loading ... does that qualify as ironic?)

5. Sam Adams Kids Night

My friend Phil spotted this in a Denver, CO bar. I guess it's possible they were just trying to save money by advertising two promotions on the same sign ...

4. Sony's Dead Goat Fiasco

The Daily Mail headline reads thusly: "Horror at Sony's depraved promotion stunt with decapitated goat."

"The corpse of the decapitated animal was the centrepiece of a party to celebrate the launch of the God Of War II game for the company's PlayStation 2 console. At the event, guests competed to see who could eat the most offal "“ procured elsewhere and intended to resemble the goat's intestines "“ from its stomach. They also threw knives at targets and pulled live snakes from a pit with their bare hands. Topless girls added to the louche atmosphere by dipping grapes into guests' mouths, while a male model portraying Kratos, the game's warrior hero, handed out garlands. The firm refused to say how the goat died. It is unusual for animals in modern Greece to be killed by having their throats cut, let alone by being decapitated."

Sounds like a helluva party. Here's a picture (with the goat's bloody stump tastefully pixelated):
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3. Thomas Edison Seance Night

Growing up in South Florida, I was often reminded that inventor Thomas Edison spent his waning years in the sleepy seaside community of Fort Myers -- though something those civic boosters never mentioned was that Edison was an avid spiritualist who many times tried to communicate with the dead. This oddity wasn't lost on baseball executive Mike Veeck, who exploited it as a truly weird promotion for Fort Myers' baseball team, the Miracle. He describes the result:

"My first year in Fort Myers, Fla., we tried to call up the ghost of Thomas Edison. I got the idea when I was driving around one day and saw a sign for a spiritual advisor. We negotiated with her and she agreed to do it. The night of the game she had a sky blue gown on and we took her to home plate and she started to channel. As you might imagine, the ballpark crowd was very tough on this lady. It became like a chain-gang spiritual. She would say in a guttural voice, 'I can't reach you.' And some guy would yell, 'Tom's over here, lady!' As people left the stadium I heard someone say something that I loved. 'That was the stupidest thing I ever saw, but boy, was it funny.'"

Not exactly a disaster, but definitely weird.

2. Harvard's Roman Orgy Dance Party

Dubbed the "Decadenza," it was a reference to Rome's wild orgies. The party's slogan was "Freshman girls free" (as in free admission, though this was left intentionally vague), and they were called "vestal virgins" for the evening. (This reminds me, in spirit at least, of a seriously misguided frat party at USC a few years ago: the theme was "run for the border," and decorations included razor wire and makeshift fences, and people came dressed as border guards. Nice.) Needless to say, there was much flap about the promotion, decried as sleazy and shameless in the Harvard Crimson and elsewhere. I mean really, how much work do you have to do to get college kids to come and drink at a party?

1. Mission: Impossible III

You've probably all heard about this, but it deserves a hallowed place in the pantheon of misguided promotions nonetheless. Just before the movie came out, 4,500 randomly selected LA Times newspaper boxes were fitted with devices that would play the Mission: Impossible theme song when the box's door was opened (which according to Paramount Pictures was "designed to turn the 'everyday news rack experience' into an 'extraordinary mission.'")
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Perhaps inevitably, some people found the newspaper boxes a little too extraordinary; see those guys in the picture above? They aren't movie fans ... they're the LA County bomb squad. Apparently, some of the 4,500 digital musical devices jarred loose from the inside of the door and fell onto the stack of newspapers. A little plastic box with red wires protruding ... not suspicious at all! Above is the last photo ever taken of the newspaper box in question -- it was blown up by the bomb squad minutes later. Mission accomplished.

March 11, 2008 - 7:08am
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