Marketing

Boston Fiasco Prompts Cartoon GM to Quit

2/09/2007 7:07 PM Eastern

Cartoon Network general manager Jim Samples fell on his sword Feb. 9, taking responsibility for a controversial marketing campaign which resulted in an anti-terrorism response by officials in Boston late in January.

His resignation came just five days after network parent Turner Broadcasting System and its agency, Interference, agreed to pay $2 million to state, local and national agencies to avoid prosecution over the marketing stunt. The network had two local artists place 38 light boards around the city at key transit points. The battery-powered units had an image of a Mooninite, a character from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The devices caused a traffic-shuttering scare when they were mistaken for terrorist devices.

The campaign was executed in nine other cities at the same time but did not elicit the same level of reaction.

In an e-mail to colleagues, Samples said he deeply regretted the negative publicity and expense caused to the company. As general manager, he said he felt compelled to step down due to the “gravity of the situation that occurred under my watch.”

James Anderson, vice president, public relations for Cartoon, said the company did not ask Samples to resign. Anderson couldn't comment on the process for finding a replacement, or whether Turner would seek a candidate from inside or outside the company.

For now, Cartoon executives will report to Mark Lazarus, president of Turner Entertainment Group. Lazarus sent an e-mail to employees, praising Samples' accomplishments, such as growing Adult Swim from a programming block to a network success story and his support for cause marketing initiatives.

Samples' resignation is a “reflection of his regard for the business he helped build and the people he trusts to move it forward,” Lazarus wrote.

The settlement with Massachusetts, brokered by Attorney General Martha Coakley, includes $1 million in restitution and another million in “goodwill funds,” to be used to support homeland-security operations and emergency preparedness.

Local mayors, including a furious Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, demanded and got a public apology from Turner and Interference.

“We understand now that in today's post-Sept. 11 environment, it was reasonable and appropriate for citizens and law enforcement officials to take any perceived threat posed by our light boards very seriously to respond the way they did,” the statement read.

Turner confirmed that the company has been contacted by other jurisdictions about reimbursement for removing the marketing devices.

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