XM Offers Up Its Airwaves for Latest 'Aqua Teen' Stunt

Show That Wreaked Havoc in Boston Set to Take Over '80s Rock Channel

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NEW YORK -- After an out-of-home marketing stunt in Boston this February didn't quite turn out as planned, the folks at Cartoon Network's Adult Swim are terrorizing a new medium, satellite radio, for their latest venture into viral marketing behind "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."
Instead of inadvertently terrorizing the residents of Boston via an outdoor marketing stunt, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim instead opted to harrass the listeners of XM Satellite Radio.
Instead of inadvertently terrorizing the residents of Boston via an outdoor marketing stunt, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim instead opted to harrass the listeners of XM Satellite Radio.

To promote their hour-long station takeover of XM Satellite Radio's Boneyard channel this weekend, Carl, Meatwad, Frylock and Master Shake have been interrupting the airwaves on all of XM's rock channels. Those who tune in today, for example, may hear this proclamation at any given moment, "Hello, music lovers! Tomorrow, your XM belongs to me, Master Shake, the ruler of your face, and I've slept with all your girlfriends."

Using extra caution
It's the first foray into off-channel branded entertainment for the "Aqua Teen" brand, but its execution could certainly hearken back to campaigns of yore. In an e-mail interview, Beth Goss, Cartoon Networks' exec VP of marketing and sales, wouldn't directly address the failed Boston stunt, but did acknowledge using extra caution in taking the "Aqua Teen" characters viral again.

"We always have to make sure that anything tied to the Adult Swim brand is something our fans expect from us and from the shows they love," she said. "We make it our priority to stay true to the viewer." In fact, all of the campaign's creative had to be signed off by Adult Swim's creator before it went back to XM.

Still, Ms. Goss and her team couldn't resist poking a little fun at their own expense, teaming up with the XM Radio Management to issue a mock letter of complaint to the "Aqua Teen" characters for invading their airwaves.

But where the Mooninite light fixtures were mistaken for bombs, the XM team had much more frivolous concerns with their own "Aqua Teen" marketing:

"This is a clear violation of broadcast standards as it blatantly ignores federal regulations pertaining to talking food on the nation's airwaves. You are deliberately tampering with a national broadcast platform and perverting it to your own twisted designs -- which include bodily noises, lewd comments about mothers and the desecration a revered Def Leppard song. You're bringin' on the heartbreak, causing hysteria for millions across the country and it will leave you high and dry."

XM's collaborative marketing
It's the first time XM has opened its channels to branded takeovers, but only the most recent example of collaborative marketing the brand has embarked on with other outlets. For starters, there's the three-way ad for Cadillac and Bob Dylan that XM helped initiate.

XM also has smaller viral efforts, such as branding its own programs for MySpace, MTV and Mania TV, as well as offering up its 30 seconds of air time on Current TV to users in a viewer-created ad-message (VCAM) contest, with the winning clip airing earlier this week.

As a result, XM has been outspending its satellite competitor -- and possible merger counterpart -- Sirius in the media marketplace, shelling out $58.9 million in total ad dollars in 2006 alone, with the bulk in television and magazines whereas Sirius focuses on newspapers. John Moore, director of ideas and innovations for Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, has been working with XM to reach new subscribers by weaving seamlessly through traditional and nontraditional media where it makes sense.

"I think with consumers, especially young consumers, you can no longer reach or penetrate them if you build 100% of your media plan on 'interruption marketing.' But it's got to be part of it because you need to build scale. It's 'How can we create content that consumers actually want to see?'"

Sean Connolly, VP-brand management and media for XM, said the early results from the Adult Swim partnership have already opened him up to more partnerships of its kind with different partners in other genres.

"Boneyard itself is kind of '80s hard rock, more of a young male demographic, and fit there with Adult Swim, just as much through the tonality and editorial voice of the station," Mr. Connolly said. "It was great to hear programmers on both sides exchange ideas about how similar they were in nature."
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