Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
CONVAR Deutschland was a German computer company that wanted to get the word out about the crazy young rebel upstarts in the wacky world of data recovery, and they figured the best way to accomplish that was to put a bunch of explosives in the mail and see if anybody died.
In retrospect, Cobra Commander was a poor choice for social media director.
Well, OK, they weren't actual bombs -- but they sure looked the part to your average uninformed citizen. CONVAR hot-glued a hard drive to an alarm clock and attached a note that read, "Your time is running out." Picture getting that package in the mail: a brick of electronics, a countdown timer, and a threatening note. Your first thought isn't "Oh man, they're right, hard drive failure is imminent!" Your first thought is "balls," followed by "I am running now," and then probably "I need some new pants."
This wasn't an isolated incident. CONVAR sent these packages out to about 40 businesses. And you know what technically counts as a business? An embassy!
Fethi Belaid / AFP / Getty
Because if there's one group of people who appreciate a good bomb joke, it's embassy guards.
We feel like we don't need to say it, but the embassy called the police. Buildings were evacuated. Bomb squads went out to investigate. When the authorities discovered that the packages weren't actual bombs, they knocked some marketing dudes' heads together, and then presumably went home to back up their hard drives.
Between the looming threat of terrorism, frisky TSA agents, and the ridiculous markup on almost certainly poisonous food, airports are about the least pleasant place to be. How could it be worse? Well, what if you suddenly found yourself cast as the lead in a re-enactment of The Fugitive? Imagine sitting down in one of those busted vinyl delayed-flight-sweat-soaked airport benches, only to look up and see your own picture on the newspaper being read by the man across from you. You squint, trying to read the headline:
Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty / Jupiterimages / Pixland
You suddenly regret wearing your vintage Power Rangers Underoos for the flight.
Oh, holy shit, what did you do? W-was it illegal to mock the postman's stupid shorts, like you did yesterday? Do they issue warrants for parking more than 6 inches away from the curb? What the hell is going on?
Then a voice comes over the loudspeaker, reiterating what you already know: Police are looking for somebody who matches your description. On the TV in the bar across from the gate, there's a news report running your picture, describing you as "dangerous and unpredictable." Just as you start contemplating kicking out a window and hijacking a plane, two security guards approach you. This is your Bourne moment. You're innocent, and you know it, but they're still coming for you. Thinking fast, you bash one guard in the face with a trashcan, then use his Taser to take the other one down. As he falls, the suitcase they were carrying cracks open, revealing that it was all a stunt to hawk deodorant.
If NIVEA were smart, they'd have shared the ad with Depends.
It all actually happened in Germany. Well, everything but the superspy-caliber judo takedown (come on, you struggle getting a gallon of milk into the cart; you couldn't even lift one of those airport trashcans). An unsuspecting person would show up at the airport, where ad company folks secretly took his or her picture and printed it on a fake newspaper. An actor sat down and read the newspaper in front of the target. Fake news anchors standing by would whip up a report for the situation, and when it looked like the mark was sufficiently panicked, they'd send in the security guards with the big reveal. NIVEA was trying to make a point about their deodorant, and sweat, and stress, and whatever. It was really only by chance that they didn't accidentally prove that there's a little Harrison Ford in all of us.
We're kind of ashamed that this whole thing didn't end with a scissor-kick.
Sara Ohlms doesn't have a blog and doesn't tweet, but she wants you to have a lovely day anyway. If you want to talk about how awesome the St. Louis Blues are, or need a freelance writer, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related Reading: Think marketing stunts couldn't get any more irresponsible? Think again. No one today is ballsy enough to stage a TRAIN CRASH just to advertise their business- but that exact scenario went down in 1845. Publicity stunts have a long history of getting out of hand. Just ask the Hollywood sign. Or the patrons of the bar Splinter Cell's developers paid an actor to wave a gun around at.