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Dorothy Le

Marketing Mania: Balloon Boy

Feb 21 2014, 09:00 AM by

Marketing Mania


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s another inflated-publicity-stunt-to-gain-notoriety-and-a-reality-show! Who can forget the Balloon Boy hoax in 2009, where Richard and Mayumi Heene of Fort Collins, Colorado ran to the media in panic that their 6-year-old son, Falcon, is floating thousands of feet up in the sky in one of the family’s latest science experiments: a UFO-shaped aluminum hovercraft. The problem of enlisting a kid as part of your hoax is that kids don’t know how stay silent in front of the media and will basically sell you out on live national TV.

It started innocently enough; the family loves science and doing fun experiments at home. Richard is an amateur scientist who hoped to develop an alternate form of transportation through the use of a homemade hovercraft. What he constructed was a 20 by 5 feet balloon made of tarp and aluminum and held together by string and duct tape; and a box base made from plywood and cardboard.

On morning of October 15th, the family recorded a video of the balloon’s grand debut and release, only later to find their youngest son missing. Of course their first assumption was that he climbed into the box base and flew up with the balloon. News stations and emergency helicopters and planes were called to track down the runaway balloon. Concerned citizens were glued to the TV, waiting anxiously with bated breath for the poor little boy to be found and returned safely to his family.

The balloon ended up drifted for 60 miles throughout Colorado and finally landed two hours later, but the boy was nowhere to be found! Alas, it turns out he was hiding in the family’s attic. the. whole. time.

Naturally, several news stations and media requested to interview the family about how traumatized they were with the whole ordeal and how little Falcon is doing. Little Falcon seems to do just fine, because on CNN’s Larry King Live, he was asked how come he didn’t come out of the attic when he heard his parents calling his name, to which he looked at his father and responded, “You guys said that, um, we did this for the show.”

Those 11 words were what change the course of Richard Heene’s over-the-top marketing scheme for a reality show. After it was revealed that it was all a hoax, Richard was sent to jail for 90 days while his wife Mayumi was sentenced to 20 days, along with community service.

It may seem that this backlash from the public will teach the Heene’s a lesson to calm down and go back to a normal life, but not with this unstoppable family. Their latest project is the Heene Boyz – The World’s Youngest Metal Band.

And the saga continues.

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