Social marketing as infernal device

The recent bizarre flap over the Boston PD mistaking a promotion for Aqua Teen Hunger Force for a terrorist threat is giving me a bad case of ambivalence.
First, the promoters are clearly victims of this culture of fear that we’ve managed to create for our selves. But, then, I’m thinking “Score! Cartoon Network can’t buy that kind of publicity.” And that was the point of the whole exercise, wasn’t it?
But, ultimately, I’m troubled by the expropriation of public spaces for advertising messages. This is something that should make all of us, including marketers, think twice. After all, David Ogilvy understood before just about anyone in the industry that advertising should be based on a quid pro quo. Ogilvy’s assertion that billboards (he was writing in the eighties and before) obstructed the public sphere for private profit is more true than ever and it’s advice that we ignore at our peril.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.