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6 Promotions That Didn't Quite Work Out

Marketing has come a long way in the last two centuries, but it's hard to get people's attention these days. Sometimes, you've got to do something big and outrageous and potentially dangerous, and sometimes, those things don't always work out exactly the way you'd planned. Like employing a guerilla marketing firm to promote a cartoon movie and inadvertently causing a citywide panic (see previous post: "Innocent Ideas That Prompted Mass Hysteria.")

With that in mind, here are a few of history's better bad marketing moves. Feel free to file these under "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

1. Sponsoring Headstones

Gaming companies are always pushing the bounds of bad taste in their products (Manhunt 2, anyone?), but in 2002, Acclaim Entertainment shocked the UK when it announced it would pay mourning families to place small billboards on their relatives' headstones advertising the game Shadowman 2. The company thought it was an appropriate place to advertise the "dark, gory" game, which it billed as a "journey to the Deathside." Acclaim later said the offer might "particularly interest poorer families." The Church of England responded by saying they had a hard enough time dealing with those plastic flowers in graveyards, and by no account would it allow video game advertisement on headstones. End of story.

2. Chocolate Bombs

Back in the fall of 1926, a Berlin chocolate company made international headlines after police shut down their marketing campaign—because citizens were complaining of bruises. According to a contemporary AP article in the New York Times, the company had been sending up two planes every Sunday to bombard crowds of people with foil-wrapped chocolates from a height of about 100 feet. "The aerial gifts were particularly objectionable to bald-headed men, whose custom it is to stroll with heads uncovered on the theory that the sun's rays stimulate the growth of hair. Mothers complained that children fighting for the prizes ruined their Sunday clothes."

3. Snapple Sees Marketing Stunt Melt Away

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You could see the logic here: What's better than a popsicle on a hot day? Nothing. Just maybe not a 25-foot, 17.5 ton popsicle. Snapple found that out the hard way in 2005 when the company unveiled their gargantuan kiwi-strawberry popsicle in the middle of Times Square, which promptly started to melt in the 80-degree heat, losing a torrent of sticky kiwi-strawberry concentrate all over the streets.

4. Molson to College Kids: "˜Drink up!'

It's not much of a secret that college and beer go together like, well, college and beer, but Molson brewing company found itself facing a whole poop-storm of controversy when it tried to capitalize on that fact. In 2007, the company launched an online marketing campaign targeting Canadian college kids, asking them to post their best party pictures on Facebook in a contest to determine Canada's top party school. The grand prize was a spring break trip to Cancun for the winner and four friends.

Parents and school officials were not pleased. One school official plainly told The Globe and Mail he was disgusted, while others demanded that Molson axe the campaign, claiming it not only targeted underage drinkers, but also promoted irresponsible drinking in a big way. The winning photo, they reasoned, would have to be pretty outrageous to merit a trip to Cancun.

Molson, bowing to the pressure, pulled the campaign.

5. Escape Artist Turned Marketer Has Brush With Death

In 1990, magician-cum-marketer Jim McCafferty wanted to launch his marketing and brand consulting business with a big time attention-grabbing stunt—and nearly died in the process. The idea was that McCafferty, straitjacketed, would be locked in a metal cage, welded shut on all sides. The cage would then be hoisted by a crane 300 feet off the ground and McCafferty would have two minutes to get out of the straitjacket, out of the cage, and attach himself to a harness before the timer released the cage and it plummeted to the ground.

McCafferty got out of the straitjacket with little problem, but found himself stuck in the cage. With just 10 seconds left on the clock, he managed to scramble out and onto the roof. As he fumbled with the harness, the timer ran out, and the cage fell 60 feet before he was able to click in to the harness and arrest his fall. McCafferty was taken away by ambulance, suffering from first- and second-degree rope burns. All was not lost, however: The crowd loved the stunt, thinking that McCafferty's brush with death was simply part of the act and McCafferty has gone on to run his successful million-dollar company.

6. Arrested for Vodafone

This would not be the first time anyone got naked in the name of advertisement, but it was certainly one of the few times anyone was arrested for it. In 2002, two brave young men raced across the rugby pitch during a match between New Zealand and Australia, clad in naught but the Vodafone logo. The two were caught, mid-streak, and escorted off the field by police. Vodafone later apologized for having "encouraged" the duo to do their naked run and later donated £30,000 to a nonprofit campaign to reduce sports injuries.

[Many thanks go to Entrepreneur magazine, whose compilation of PR stunts helped pad our list.]

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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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iStock

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Space
More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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