In the last several months, guerrilla marketing – employing unconventional methods to promote a cause or product – has become more popular and in some cases more outrageous. But despite their proven track record of garnering attention and getting people thinking, marketers themselves should make sure they do some thinking of their own before giving the ‘OK’ to proposed schemes.

In February 2007, a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote Cartoon Network’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force brought the city of Boston to a near-standstill when concerned citizens flooded emergency workers with reports of suspicious devices. A New York based marketing firm had placed several electronic devices near highway underpasses that featured arrays of blinking LED lights set in black circuit boards depicting characters from the show. One device was even detonated by the Boston Police Department following fears it may have been a terrorist bomb. Two suspects were arrested on charges of placing a hoax device and of disorderly conduct. Now, officials are looking into criminally charging the marketing company behind the scheme as well.

Here in Canada, a less controversial stunt was pulled which had its own security implications. To kick off the Daily Bread Food Bank’s fall food drive, empty refrigerators were placed throughout the Toronto downtown core to remind people of the fact that many people cannot afford to stock a fridge. While the aftermath was much less drastic than with the Cartoon Network debacle, security was nevertheless unimpressed. By late afternoon, downtown security had scooped up every last empty refrigerator.