How Viral Marketing Shut Down Boston.

Lets go back to 2007. I was a Junior in high school and would occasionally watch the late-night cartoon program; Adult Swim. The program ran numerous cartoons geared towards an older audience. In the same flavor as shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, Adult Swim had their own set of cartoons that would push the envelope. They pushed that figurative envelope too far when two of the workers at the station went to various cities and placed make-shift Lite-Brites of one of their more iconic characters of their longest running show: Aqua Teen Hunger Force. A show that features a Giant Meatball, French Fries, and a Milkshake who live in a scuzzy rent controlled home near the Jersey Shore. One of their biggest enemies were these two fowl-mouthed pixelated creatures from the moon eloquently named “The Mooninites”


The good ole Boys in Blue thought this was a bomb, thus shut the entire City of Boston down for the day to figure out what these were. The intent for these images were not to scare people, but to announce the full length film of the cartoon: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.  Even the directors of the program didn’t expect this to happen.

None of this was supposed to be news worthy at the start, but once things got underway the idea went from “Lets apologize” to “Lets keep this going”. The best part of this was how they turned it around to continue promoting the movie.

The viral side of this was when the two workers at the station held a press conference where they made no acknowledgment of the event and discussed Haircuts from the 70’s.


Thousands of Facebook users flocked to their status’s where they further expanded the hype as well as countless News Networks discussing different views on the matter.

The movie became a Sleeper Hit grossing 5 million off of its $700,000 budget with the event now known as “The Boston Bomb Scare” being the only advertising it received. Turner Broadcasting did have to front $1 million dollars to the city of Boston for the incident, but that fails in comparison to the amount they would have had to pay if they went about it using traditional means.

This event really puts into perspective what it means to have a successful viral marketing campaign. With more and more companies reaching out to have their shot at advertising fame, who knows what we have in store for the future.