It’s now a month past that ill-conceived Aqua Teen Hunger Force (pictured) marketing ploy-slash-terrorism hoax in Boston, and the ratings are in. ATHF’s home base, the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim broke all sorts of cable records in February among young and male viewers. Moreover, it extended its streak as the top cable channel among men aged 18-24 to 23 months — yep, more cereal-eating, pot-smoking, dorm-living homebodies watch Adult Swim than tune in to outlets like ESPN or MTV. Dude!
Man. Oh, man. The spin machine would have you believe that this achievement is largely the product of Family Guy and Futurama marathons and of Nielsen Media Research’s recent decision to include college students in its count. But is that all there is to it? Isn’t it possible that the ATHF stunt sparked interest in a show and network that many people hadn’t heard about? (I admit to having been one of them — it’s been years since I didn’t inhale/was in college/had no life).
To be fair and fully disclose: Turner Broadcasting, which owns the Cartoon Network (and is a part of EW.com parent Time Warner), paid a $2 million fine of sorts, and the channel’s honcho resigned. But does all this still leave a bad taste in your mouth? And what do the higher ratings mean for the marketing mavens of the future, who may be looking at the Boston thing with a certain twisted admiration?