I used to run a guerrilla marketing company called Interference Inc. that was involved in a marketing stunt for Aqua Teen Hunger Force that shut down the city of Boston for a day on 1.31.07 with suspicions of Terrorism. 9 other cities were also marketed to but did not shut down. Here i am today.

Here are some articles from when it happened for proof it is me. FastCo Inc Magazine Wiki NYTimes

Also my Twitter

and here is the Wiki article on it. and finally on the one year anniversary, artists made a mooninite of me and put them around Boston.

Ask Me Anything!

UPDATE: THANKS FOR ALL THE GREAT QUESTIONS, SHUTTING OFF FOR THE NIGHT, IF YOU WANT TO ASK ANY OTHERS, I WILL GET TO THEM TOMORROW.

Comments: 130 • Responses: 54  • Date: 

sonic_redoucher49 karma

First off, thank you for that! I enjoyed every second of the hilarity.

Have you worked with CN/Adult Swim since? If so what projects?

SamEwen69 karma

HA, oh no. They wanted NOTHING to do with us after that. But we did a lot of work for other companies after that, while not as attention getting, still made me proud.

TheRedChair2135 karma

I remember this! My friends and I laughed for about an hour straight after watching you guys handle questions on haircuts (from the 70s?) during a (press conference? court hearing?)

Funniness aside, at the time, or even now, do you ever worry that it was irresponsible? Or get amazed at how out of proportion that blew up?

SamEwen43 karma

To be clear. The guys you saw on TV where the local guys we hired to put the signs up, that wasn't me. I am always amazed at how out of control it got. 6 hours after it was proven just to be marketing and we had worked with local police to verify all locations and after they had blown one up, they still kept not only the city but the Charles river closed down. Yeah, it was crazy. Irresponsible? In hindsight yes, it could have been done differently, but I do believe the reaction was far greater than the intent. Who would put a bomb up, with flashing lights, and a character giving the finger?

pivo20 karma

Who would put a bomb up, with flashing lights, and a character giving the finger?

This is exactly what cracked me up about the whole thing back then and it still cracks me up now. What the hell? When has this ever been the MO of any bomber? It's just crazy.

I had friends who were outraged by your stunt and I had to do some serious thinking about why they were my friends. Excellent work sir, too bad it wasn't well received.

SamEwen5 karma

Thank you, I appreciate it.

ThreeTimesUp5 karma

Who would put a bomb up, with flashing lights, and a character giving the finger?

What was your reaction to the female MIT student (geek obviously) who showed up at Logan airport a couple of months later wearing a bit of jewelry she had constructed herself that consisted of a small circuit board and a few blinking LEDs - blinking LEDs that proceeded to freak the entirety of Logan airport police out of their collective minds?

SamEwen4 karma

It felt so overblown. They had a similar reaction to a talking mailbox that brand tried to do. Also Dr. Pepper got hit hard for a scavenger hunt project a few months later that just felt like the sensitivity level was too high.

mattsylvanian31 karma

What was your (and your company's) initial reaction upon learning the devices were suspected of being terrorist in nature?

SamEwen69 karma

It was an interesting moment. I was in DC pitching work to Discovery Channel and stopped in a Baja Fresh for a bit of food before coming back to NY and I looked up and they had CNN on and it was showing the bomb squad in boston removing and blowing up one of our signs. We freaked out, called our client, called the police in all 10 cities to let them know it was not a bomb and then waited to see what was doing to happen.

dazedwit24 karma

I was working near Fenway Park when this happened. Before this became a city wide bomb scare I noticed one of your pieces hanging way up! high on the Charlesgate overpass and wondered what the hell that thing was and how did it get there (I saw your video later of you got them up so high).

My question: Did you map out where you were going to place these beforehand, or did you just wing it - placing them wherever as you went along the night?

SamEwen30 karma

We had mapped out locations all around the city. We used rare earth magnets on the back so we needed metal to stick on to. So that was the main criteria. Probably this is also why things went bad, as one of our guys saw that the support structure for bridges are metal, he put one there, that is the one that got the first 911 call. You should have grabbed the one you saw, they were quite popular on Ebay for awhile.

dazedwit17 karma

Oh believe me, I was kicking myself for not figuring out a way to grab it. The only option I could think of was walking on the overpass (not safe) and dangling over the edge to try and grab it (even more not safe).

SamEwen17 karma

Yeah, you made the right choice. They were cool little devices, but not THAT cool.

martywalshhealthgoth21 karma

My dorm room was about 100 feet away from the Lite Brite at MassArt, so I got a nice birds eye view of all the chaos. My question for is: will you please replace the vuvuzela the dorm RA's took away from me? I heard about what was actually going on hours before the shitstorm happened and knew it was harmless, so I spent about 45 minutes blowing the horn at the news crews below my window (before it was taken away). I really liked that vuvuzela.

SamEwen20 karma

I bet it was a spectacular vuvuzela. It may be in a better place after all. In the meantime, you always have this.

OpalHawk11 karma

The text was removed. What did you place in Boston that they thought was a bomb?

SamEwen13 karma

Working on getting the text back. But here you go for the overview.

roadtrip-ne11 karma

Zebbler seemed to be the face of this scandal but my memory is fuzzy, how much were you involved in legally after the fact?

SamEwen23 karma

I paid for he and his partner's entire legal case and guided them along the way. CN was going to pay for it all until the hair style press conference and then they walked away.

Drunkelves8 karma

[deleted]

SamEwen9 karma

It pissed me off because we all had been cooperating with lawyers and the city. Then that happened and nobody took it seriously and they wanted to go after those two.

plytheman2 karma

That's a bit of a bummer that after such a clusterfuck that CN instigated through you and Zebbler they'd ditch out after the press conference. From what I remember no one was taking any of it seriously besides the city and, I'm assuming, your legal team. Yeah, the press conference was ridiculous, but so was everything else about it.

Regardless of all that, being in the past and all, thanks for entertaining my friends and I!

SamEwen1 karma

Glad I could help!

Coomb8 karma

Why do you think Boston authorities were the only ones stupid enough to think Mooninites were bombs?

SamEwen22 karma

It was a bit of a dangerous feeling time, even though it was 6 years post 9/11. We were up in 9 other markets without incident. When I met with the police and Homeland Security in NY, the cops here said 'of course the Boston cops would freak out.'

Mickey_Malthus0 karma

'of course the Boston cops would freak out.' -- Any more context or insight on this?

SamEwen2 karma

Well as you can imagine there is a fair amount of competition between NY and Boston. Baseball probably started this from a cop perspective but the detectives I was talking to just said that Boston overreacts. That was all I got.

thrasumachos8 karma

Peter Berdovsky, who placed the devices, went to the scene of the scare and videotaped the police reaction to it without informing them of what the devices were. Did he do this on your instructions? Was he told to not inform the authorities what the devices were?

SamEwen16 karma

We did not ask Peter to film, he went out and did that on his own. We proactively went to the police in all 10 cities and gave them our location maps and told them they were not explosive. Boston just ... waited.

TheLamestUsername6 karma

when did you give Boston that info? before they were discovered or after they were first discovered?

SamEwen12 karma

They signs had been up for close to 3 weeks in 10 different cities. There was no incident anywhere. Within 2 hours of hearing about the issue we had reached out to the police force in every city. Most of them had no idea what we were talking about.

HiTechCity6 karma

Did you ever work with those artists again? Do you feel they suffered for their work (arrest, etc) while you profited/gained exposure?

SamEwen12 karma

I did not work with them again. We supported them, paid their legal bills, helped negotiate the settlement. I think it brought them a certain level of notoriety, that I do know they tried to turn into a bigger platform. We tried to do the same, as it had the potential to bankrupt my agency. Some other stuff went down between us a bit later, but I think that is best kept private.

xfearbefore5 karma

Oh man I totally remember this happening, being your typical teenage stoner who loved Aqua Teen, and finding it the funniest thing in the world.

Were there any legal or negative ramifications to the whole incident? Or just a bunch of federal agents pissed off for having their time wasted?

Are you a fan of the show? Damn shame how they were cancelled like they were.

SamEwen6 karma

I did like the show. It as a fun brand to work on. I think the whole marketing team got cut as well after this which was a shame. There were actually pretty serious ramifications. Turner paid over 2Million in fines to Boston, some lessor amounts to other cities once they saw it was payment time. I personally spent over 6 figures on legal expenses. Luckily nothing criminal came out of it.

Orez934 karma

Why was one place near/at New England Medical Center ( now Tufts Medical center)? I couldn't understand at the time why your company/contacters would place one at a Hospital.

SamEwen6 karma

I don't remember which locations were done for what reason. Perhaps there were a bunch of medical students or we were looking at the Tufts crowd? Sorry there was not a huge amount of strategy around location except to be in general areas where people who watch the show hung out or lived. Clearly we made a mistake being near a hospital.

LiveLongAndPasta4 karma

I heard Mooninites in Boston PD uniforms haunt your dreams driving you to consider a life of solitude and revenge much like a vigilante, and while practicing Schwarzenegger lines from Commando on your treadmill every morning you laugh (and possibly twist your mustache) while plotting your next urban take down. True? (for realz you are a hero)

SamEwen4 karma

HA, everything is true except the treadmill. I am more of an outdoor runner. No but really, it took a bit to get to sleep those first few weeks. Not a hero, just liked pushing our creative limits.

LiveLongAndPasta3 karma

To us in "the industry" your a hero.

SamEwen5 karma

Thanks! Not sure what cape to wear.

CharlieHustle4 karma

What was your favorite project to work on?

SamEwen8 karma

I never really have a favorite as when they are done, I am sick of seeing them. But I think the work I did with Showtime for Homeland or Dexter or the Sharkweek stuff I did for Discovery Channel stick out.

theshadowofdoubt2 karma

I had known about the Mooninite "bomb hoax" for years but I hadn't seen anything else of your work. Now I feel like I should have known you primarily from those campaigns!

I'm currently a student in fine arts / graphic design program, and designing for big campaigns (or coming up with them) is a far-off dream of mine. Sometimes I struggle with feeling like I'm creative enough- that I can come up with ideas that hit hard, or that I can come up with ideas that haven't been done before. What is your creative process like that leads to such successful concepts?

SamEwen2 karma

This is a bigger question than I can answer here. PM me if you have some specific questions. But the one thing that I think really helped me was research on not only advertising, but also on art and on entertainment and political movements. I wanted to understand what types of messages people responded to. I collected thousands of examples of these that I would reference. I had a blog on guerrilla for many years, I stopped updating it a few years ago but it is still helps, it may be helpful.

Quizzelbuck3 karma

So, is this some thing that graces your resume or other wise comes up in a positive light? Do you hide it from Employers as far as some thing so infamous is possible to conceal?

SamEwen3 karma

Google sort of reveals all. And I basically ran my company for 15 years so I didn't mind talking about it as I was not looking for a job. In fact many potential partners or employers want to know the story.

modestcouch3 karma

any chance I might be able to donate some money for a replica?

SamEwen6 karma

I do get this request a lot. Sadly part of the settlement was them taking the remainder of stock. Tho one of each character (ignignokt and err) may have made it to my wall.

pussgurka3 karma

What is the next big thing for marketing?

picklejewce6 karma

These days, it is all about Instagram and Snapchat. All experiential marketing is focused how to get more shares on social. Make it big, visual, and make sure it is lit well.

toasties6 karma

Do u mean "make sure it is lit, as well"?

SamEwen5 karma

The current memes would vote yes.

SamEwen4 karma

There is a bit of fatigue with creating FOMO for those viewing on social media networks, so the more you can create opportunities for people to engage with a brand, either digitally or in person, the better chance you have for that person to be a brand evangelist for you. This is a vague statement but also the driving theme of much of current marketing.

TheEliteSpectre3 karma

What is some of your other bigger works that we would recognize?

SamEwen10 karma

I infiltrated the USOpen on behalf of the Le Tigre clothing brand. I also launched the first cellphone with a camera on behalf of SONY Ericsson with 300 fake tourists. I made the world's largest hashtag made out of ice for Showtime. I had the internet destroy a sculpture for a make-up brand.

chameleonhalo3 karma

How is your hair? Any new thoughts on the current hair climate today?

SamEwen8 karma

I think you mean this for Zebbler who was in the press conference. He and his friend were the guys we hired to put ip the signs. As for me, my hair is currently a bit grayer than I would like and I think men should still be wary of hair past their shoulders.

VeritablyClean3 karma

How did the stunt affect your career? Positively or negatively?

SamEwen3 karma

It started out negative. We lost clients, I lost a lot of money to legal expenses. Part of my deal with Turner was that after a gag period I could tell my side of the story in order to try and help my company as this thing I was hired to do by them could have put me out of business. That outreach and press helped to get people comfortable again and in the long run did challenge people to create more interesting experiential marketing in my opinion. It raised the profile of non-traditional marketing which I had spent most of my career trying to do.

AgoraiosBum3 karma

Do you feel any kinship with the mooninites?

SamEwen7 karma

I feel we share a special hand gesture.

Chtorrr2 karma

What is the very best cheese?

SamEwen5 karma

Might I recommend this?

byronsucks2 karma

Yo, were the guys that setup the lite-brights in an experimental electronic band? I went to a random show in Boston probably eight years or so ago and I think it might have been those two guys (???)

SamEwen2 karma

They certainly could have been. I know one of them was a projection guy so it would not surprise me.

Quizzelbuck2 karma

Oh, you were that guy huh? Oh man, thank you for that.

SamEwen2 karma

¯_(ツ)_/¯

MoonHydrogen2 karma

Damn I miss ATHF. What was Adult Swim's initial reaction to what happened?

SamEwen3 karma

To be honest? Shock. Nobody expected this, ever. After the first day I never spoke to the marketing team again, it all went through lawyers.

MangoDiesel2 karma

Did you watch the press conference live when they were doing the 80's hairstyle questions? What was your reaction? Did these guys ever explain to you why they did that?

SamEwen4 karma

I did watch it. To be honest we had spoken to them before with their lawyer and had planned it all out (no hair mention) and then they came out and turned it into that and I literally just saw money flying away as I knew Turner would pull out.

gored_matador1 karma

Would it make you feel any better to learn that I went to see Shpongle in concert a few years ago in Boston and Zebbler was the opening act and totally sucked? Because that happened, his performance really really stunk.

(Edit: his musical project is/was called The Zebbler Encanti Experience or something like that)

SamEwen1 karma

I had no issues with Zebbler other than how they handled the press conference stuff. Yes they cost me a lot of money, but they also didn't ask for what happened to them.

FoolioTheGreat2 karma

Do you play minecraft or roblox?

SamEwen3 karma

I play neither by my daughter used to love Minecraft.

kount_chokula2 karma

I think I talked to you at the Aqua Teen Hunger Force premier at the Lowes Boston Common. What drugs were you on that day?

SamEwen3 karma

I wasn't at the premier so it must have been another marketer.

nxrble2 karma

Are you or your company involved in ARGs? I expected that if there ever was confusion regarding an advertising campaign (and ARGs are that, too, I think?) it would have been something other than what transpired here.

SamEwen5 karma

We dabbled in ARGs and I knew some of the initial companies jumping into that space. The real issue is that virtually every municipality has different rules for what you can and can't do and it literally makes it impossible to do a multi-city public experience that does not fall into the small buckets of what is 'allowed.' Most companies just find other ways to execute the idea.

shouldbeworking231 karma

You should dress as Walter White for Halloween. Thoughts?

SamEwen2 karma

Not the first to suggest this.

cakes1todough11 karma

Hi Sam! Thanks for posting and bringing back all the fond memories. This is more of a question about your carreer. Do you still work in guerrilla marketing? As an artist, I'm curious what it take to get into the field. Thanks!

SamEwen1 karma

I gave some advice in other answers if you want to read those. There a lot of really interesting guerrilla/experiential marketing companies out there these days. I would try and get an internship or entry level job and see if you have a knack for it. I am still in the industry.

Knight12ify1 karma

Superman or Batman?

SamEwen7 karma

Nightcrawler?

tbends1 karma

What do you now? Did this help your career?

SamEwen1 karma

In the long run it helped my career, but that was never the intention, mainly for the press and the google results. I run the experiential group for a media company now. But I did run my agency for 14 years before I sold it.

meanlimabeanmachine1 karma

I am very interested in pursuing marketing as a career, especially guerilla marketing. All I do so far is affiliate marketing and am the marketing manager of a small local contracting business.

How did you get started with guerrilla marketing? Did/do you enjoy it? What advise would you give someone just entering the field?

Thank you!

SamEwen2 karma

These days there is a blurred line between 'guerrilla' marketing and 'experiential' marketing. Luckily both are very popular tactics right now. I would look to work at one of the many agencies doing this right now. If you search experiential you will see hundreds of agencies in most of the larger cities doing this. If you want to do it on your own, then I would recommend starting small. Guerrilla postering and stickers, street chalk, sampling. See how people respond. Look into your local community's municipal guidelines to see how far you can push it. If you have a knack for it, create an entity, create a few one-sheets and start going local on the sales side. Don't undercharge, it is hard work. Also, my defunct blog may have some insight.

SmarkieMark1 karma

Were you concerned that you'd be forced to get a haircut in prison/jail?

SamEwen1 karma

It had crossed my mind.

realdrpepper211 karma

Ya like jazz?

SamEwen1 karma

I do indeed. Was just listening to this yesterday.

rickmuscles1 karma

Do you wish Adult Swim was more relevant? What would you do to bring the brand back?

SamEwen2 karma

I have noticed they have not been advertising as much and also I think they have ceded a lot of ground to the internet. When they were more relevant it was partly because there were not as many outlets to get their irreverent set of content. Now it is everywhere. I would put my money in fewer, better done shows that bring people back in.

garrettmcqueen1 karma

Have you, or have you at least considered, pulling this sort of stunt in relation to politics?

SamEwen1 karma

I think it would be too difficult to do this type of stunt for politics, but I do think there are many opportunities to take guerrilla marketing techniques on behalf of political parties. Some are standard (lawn signs and stickers for ex.) others could be useful, immersive experiences comes to mind, put yourself into the life of your opponents world.

forava71 karma

what did you most vividly remember about that day?

SamEwen2 karma

It was surreal. I think watching CNN and seeing the bomb squad blow up one of the signs live. I was in total GO mode so there wasn't that much that comes to mind. Also I was on the train back to NY and paid a fortune in payphone charges because my cellphone got terrible reception most of the trip. It was myself, the head of the network and about 5 lawyers figuring out what to do.

flamingboard1 karma

I remember laughing a lot. The whole situation was absurd. Everyone goes from zero to freak out these days and nobody ever swings through common sense on the way.

Sucks that it sucked for you but you are a legend now if that makes it worth it.

SamEwen1 karma

ಠ_ಠ

Officialandrewj1 karma

Did you ever see that unreleased episode of aqua teen hunger force that references the incident?

SamEwen1 karma

Heard about it, never saw it. Good?

The_Seasons_Upon_Us-1 karma

Oh my God, I remember that!

New Englander here, not actually a big fan of cities in general but obviously I feel a lot of loyalty toward Boston. All things considered, what is your current overall opinion of "our fachking city"?

SamEwen1 karma

I spent some early years in Somerville and still have family there. I still love it when I visit and have given lectures at MIT, Harvard, Emerson and a few other universities and always love the passion of the students there.

Coronis12-2 karma

A number of my friends are concerned about how many of cartoon networks recent programs have been of rather subpar quality compared to their more classic lineup (Eg, powerpuff girls 2016 and teen titans go compared to the original powerpuff girls and teen titans). Are there any plans to address this perceived "network decay" of sorts?

SamEwen5 karma

I do not work for Cartoon Network, they hired my company to execute the job. Which I had more insight.