Another guerrilla marketing campaign, another scare for Boston residents. Less than 30 days after bridges were closed during a bomb scare that turned out to be marketing campaign for a cartoon, angry city officials were forced to close a historic cemetery this week due to fears it might be damaged by treasure seekers.
As part of the Dr. Pepper “Hunt For More” promotion, advertisers had hidden 23 “hidden treasures,” or coins, in 23 cities across the United States. The coins could be found by using clues provided by the soft drink company, and could ultimately be worth up to $1 million. The clue to finding the Boston coin led treasure seekers to the Granary Burying Ground, a 347-year-old cemetery where Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere were laid to rest.
Due to icy sidewalks, the front gates to the cemetery had been locked. When treasure seekers discovered this, they called city officials, who were hearing of the contest for the first time. Security guards were immediately dispatched to the cemetery to prevent damage to the historic site, and a police detail was posted there overnight. This prevented contestants from finding the coin, which was hidden among the graves in a leather pouch.
City officials called the contest disrespectful to those buried in the cemetery. “It absolutely is disrespectful,” Boston Parks Commissioner Toni Pollak said in the Boston Globe. “It’s an affront to the people who are buried there, our nation’s ancestors.”
Mary Hines, a Park City spokeswoman, professed relief that nothing was damaged or destroyed. “It was like an act of God that it was closed,” she said. “I dont know what would have happened.”
Dr Pepper, which is owned by Cadbury Schweppes, will be donating $10,000 to the cemetery, and will reimburse the city for the cost of the extra police. “The coin should never have been placed in such a hallowed site, and we sincerely apologize,” Greg Artkop, a Dr Pepper spokesman, said. We agree with the Park Department’s decision to lock the gates,” he added. “We wouldn’t do anything to desecrate this cemetery.”
On Friday, Boston City Council President Maureen E. Feeney said she would hold public hearings about how the city should respond to guerilla marketing.
“It is intolerable that companies should exploit city resources at the expense of public safety and even historic property for a cheap promotion,” Feeney said in a statement. “As a city government, we must act to prevent the negative impact of these marketing activities.”
In January, police bomb squads were sent to investigate blinking signs set around Boston as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign for a Cartoon Network show. The network’s parent, TBS, and the marketing firm responsible for the promotion apologized for the scare, and paid $2 million in compensation. The two men who installed the signs face criminal charges.