No sense of humour

Promoters have been with us since before Flavious Maximus touted a gigantic stable sale at the coliseum. Some promotions, in fact, actually catch the fancy of the public, and others are utter disasters. Some of the latter are funny, and we include among them Les Nesman’s still remembered and ill-fated turkey drop at a grocery store for a Thanksgiving promotion on that old TV hit, WKRP.

Other promotions are ingenious simply for their outrageousness. Who can forget the non-marketing concept of selling Pet Rocks. The very idea caught people’s fancy, even though they knew it was ridiculous. Those promoters got rich, too.

But, just like comedians and politicians, marketers can sometimes go too far and find themselves in hot water. Sometimes what they say or do is tasteless, and other times it is downright stupid. We’ll place the sending of wooden crates to MPs across Canada to promote health products as being among the latter. The company, which shall receive no publicity whatsoever from us, was still stating to concerned and upset people last week that many stockholders and other recipients thought the idea of marking the crates “lethal weapon” among other things was brilliant, funny, harmles – pick your description.

The fact is, it was thoughtless, tasteless, and stupid. Not to mention costly. In New Brunswick, an MP’s office was evacuated for five hours while police and other emergency personnel closed off the street. In Stratford, MP Gary Schellenberger’s office staff had to contact the police, and then, thoughtfully, contacted all the other MPs in this area to let them know that the box was not likely to explode.

We learned that in Toronto when MPs received the wooden crates marked “Lethal Weapon” staff there, too, contacted the police, and those police not only contacted the company, but demanded the mailing list, so people about to receive the package could be warned in advance and not panic. Sadly, some also noted that of the 2,000 boxes sent, it was entirely possible one could have been as lethal as the word on the box stated.

We Canadians live in an idyllic world, and many people who read the article on Page 5 this week are probably shocked to learn that our duly elected MPs are often the recipients of serious threats. Such is the state of our world, whether we admit it or not. So it comes as a shock that a major marketing company would not only not know that, but not even begin to understand the reaction of staff at those offices when those packages arrived.

As Jane Boyce, of Schellenberger’s office noted in this week’s Said Again, this is not the era to commit such pranks. Maybe that time is never. If the company has a difficult time understanding that, perhaps a bill for all the wasted time of emergency personnel and government employees would drive home the message more forcefully.

Now that would make an impression.