San Franciscans angry over THQ balloon stunt

Publisher's plan to promote Homefront by releasing hundreds of red balloons in California metropolis backfires when they end up in the nearby bay.

Dozens of red balloons released today as a video game promotion ended up in the San Francisco Bay, causing anger among those who see the balloons as an environmental threat and an immediate danger to fish, birds, and other wildlife.

THQ's plan to promote Homefront went down like a lead balloon with environmentalists.

During the Game Developers Conference here, video game publisher THQ released hundreds of the balloons in conjunction with a promotion for its new game, Homefront. Many of the balloons had a postcard-size flyer attached advertising the game. People in the downtown area saw the red decorations soaring in large clusters high into the sky, and when many of the balloons came to rest in the water alongside the San Francisco Bay Bridge, some began to express their anger.

The anger seemed aimed at video game retailer GameStop, which is a promotion partner of THQ's and which had its name on the balloons.

"Your recent aerial spamming stunt in San Francisco was appalling and absolutely outrageous," a Facebook user named Teresa Aguilera wrote on GameStop's page. "Latex is biodegradable only after six months, which means the people and wildlife of San Francisco will be reminded of your irresponsibility far after the 'buzz' has faded away for you and your heinous video game."

And an Oakland artist named Camron Assadi said he wrote to GameStop with this message: "The idiots in your marketing department released hundreds of red balloons to promote a video game at GDC. Now those balloons are trash in the Bay. What are you going to do about it? Do you have a boat out there collecting this trash?"

Twitter, too, was full of anger over the promotion, with dozens of tweets expressing outrage at GameStop over the balloons ending up in the water.

But in a statement to CNET, GameStop pointed the finger at THQ.

"We understand the concerns consumers have regarding the impact balloons can have on the environment," GameStop said in the statement. "However, the balloon drop stunt in San Francisco was created by THQ, the publisher of Homefront, and GameStop had no prior knowledge of it. THQ has since informed us that they released soy-based, biodegradable balloons."

For its part, THQ said there is nothing to worry about.

"The balloons that were released are completely biodegradable," said Julia MacMedan, vice president of corporate communications for THQ. "They start the process of biodegrading as soon as they're blown up with the helium. There should not be any environmental concerns."

Asked if THQ was surprised by Bay Area residents' anger, MacMedan said, "Because the balloons are biodegradable, [people] should not be concerned about any environmental impact from the balloon release."

Further, she said, "We do not expect there will be any danger to fish or wildlife."

A FAQ site from the Balloon Council, a balloon industry trade organization, suggested that some of the outrage over the environmental effects of the GameStop stunt may be unnecessary.

"Latex is a 100 percent natural substance that breaks down both in sunlight and water." reads the FAQ from the Balloon Council, which obviously has a vested interest in people feeling that the decorations are safe. "The degradation process begins almost immediately. ... Research shows that under similar environmental conditions, latex balloons will biodegrade at about the same rate as a leaf from an oak tree. The actual total degradation time will vary depending on the precise conditions."

Added the Balloon Council, answering the question of what generally happens to the millions of wayward balloons that we see flying through our skies, "Research shows that most of these latex balloons…rise to an altitude of about five miles, where they freeze, breaking into spaghetti-like pieces that scatter as they return to earth. While we do know that animals occasionally eat these soft slivers of rubber, the evidence indicates that pieces ultimately pass through the digestive system without harming the animal."

THQ also said it has retained a cleanup crew to remove any debris from the Bay.

"The balloons released at the Homefront rally event today were made from a 100 percent organic product and are 100 percent biodegradable," THQ said in a statement. "The balloons have no history of causing any environmental pollution on land or in water. Although we're confident that there will be no harm to the environment, we've retained a cleanup crew to remove any potential lingering debris. This was a THQ sponsored promotion and GameStop had no involvement, whatsoever."

But environmentalists are still not happy with the situation. "It's still trash," said Ann Bauer, the director of education at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. "It's biodegradable over time, but a bird can still get entangled in it right now. A sea lion could be curious about it, bite it, and swallow it. It could clog their stomach and cause them to die--right now. Biodegradable takes time to happen."

And the move could be illegal. "The (California) Fish and Game code 5652 prohibits littering balloons into state waters," Patrick Foy, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game, said in an e-mail. "There are plenty of written stories about the problems associated with the release of balloons and when they are ingested."

A San Francisco resolution that urged the city to prohibit the intentional release of balloons into the air says that, among other things, dead turtles have been found washed up on beaches with balloons hanging out of their mouths and that whales are known to die from starvation by ingesting pounds of balloons and other plastics.

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Discussion

106 comments
rubyredrider13
rubyredrider13

Any of you out there reading this that are seriously stoopid enough to buy into the PR baloney that the balloons are 100% safe and will biodegrade "almost immediately" need to get a clue. Their PR department and MSMedia will tell you anything you want to hear! Notice the words "almost" and "most" and all the other quantifiers in this article! Those balloons posed a *real* threat to ANY environment they landed in (water or forest). There are always going to be curious creatures who will eat them, thinking they are food. Real biodegradation takes time. It doesn't happen in days. Clean it up, stop releasing balloons, think about the damn planet. It wasn't created just for humans, we were meant to share it and care for it. Not sit on our arses playing video games, while we trash it, & turn it into a giant pile of garbage and extinct species!

augiedoggied
augiedoggied

HAHAHAHAHA! This is what happens when you let freaking balloons fly away in the most hardcore liberal city in Cali. Soon they are going to say it was a racial slur to only use RED balloons.

darkchokolat
darkchokolat

"Heinous" video game? Right...I forgot that all video games are going to make me a murderer/ rapist/ terrorist

Timmy_Gwar
Timmy_Gwar

What idiots. First of all it takes a child to not realized that releasing balloons into the air could be considered environmentally unfriendly. It takes someone who is way off the ball to do so in San Fransisco, the bleeding heart of the US.

xdude85
xdude85

I'm surprised San Francisco didn't claim that the balloons were secret military devices designed to spy on them and control their minds.

Hk47ownz
Hk47ownz

Dear San Francisco eco-slacktavists, Let me get this straight: you're making this big of a deal over JUST a couple hundred *completely* biodegradable balloons? Seriously? I'm sorry, but that's utterly ridiculous. If you want to be green, start a fund to save rainforest biodiversity or clean up the oil spills in the Niger Delta instead of wasting your time with this load of bull. Complaining about a couple of red balloons that will have virtually no log-term effects on your precious bay doesn't show that you care about the environment, it show's you're too lazy to care about any issues that don't affect your backyard. Sincerely, Sensible gamers everywhere P.S. Who taught you to blame our "heinous" videogames for stuff like this? Fox News?

Chrypt22
Chrypt22

Seriously, that town gets angry if you dont hold your farts in because they think it contributes to global warming. San Fran has some normal people, but they are overshadowed by aging hippies that did way too much LSD when they are younger. Besides, since California is nearly bankrupt, same with LA and San Fran, who are they to get mad at anyone?

smoman5000
smoman5000

meh, they're completely biodegradable and THQ still put out a cleaning crew for it. THQ could've picked a better way to promote Homefront, but still, this is similar to getting angry at a tree for dropping too many dead leaves near your prestine driveway, then the tree offers to pick up the mess and youre still angry.

Forcecaster
Forcecaster

Why you have to give voice to your rage, and not go out to clean up the "trash"? Think...

Grimkillah
Grimkillah

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

lithus
lithus

I'll admit it was a stupid stunt idea (especially coming from a company that made a game about a defunct country being able to invade a world superpower :roll: ) But come on...a few balloons in a large body of water? Really SF?! Yet these psuedo-hippies drive around in cars that still burn fossil fuels, use soap and detergent that goes into the sewers, and buy hemp sandals made in China (the worlds largest environmental polluter). And hannify...I seriously have no clue how you dress yourself in the morning. let alone power on a computer and find a site like this to type in. WTF are you talking about?

cryingtiger
cryingtiger

what if your next door neighbors threw a party and launched a ton of balloons, most of which landed in your backyard? sure its just balloons, but it IS trash thats sitting in YOUR backyard

IceQBkid
IceQBkid

"Latex is biodegradable only after six months, which means the people and wildlife of San Francisco will be reminded of your irresponsibility far after the 'buzz' has faded away for you and your heinous video game." WTF pahaha i swear some people live in their own lil bubble in their own lil world. I mean who cares? there'll always be more animals but when do u get a chance to say u released a swarm of balloons over a city? I think thats an epic advertising campaign they just picked the wrong city to do it in. Too bad...this one couldve gone down in the history books but no stupid environmentalists had to ruin the moment >.

X-RS
X-RS

personally i tilt my hat to anyone concerned for wildlife on this planet. whom both thq and prostesters sound like they do. we know thq wants to sell a game, but they arent THAT evil/desperate. now activision/ea is another story....

El_Conrado
El_Conrado

This is San Fransisco, where it's illegal for the Happy Meal to have a toy. Is anyone surprised? Next, they'll making farting in public a crime, like in Malawi.

ricardo-sene
ricardo-sene

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

erix43
erix43

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

MW2ismygame
MW2ismygame

1) people in san Francisco need a chill pill right now 2)what about all the other things that go on all year long that can kill animals? toxic chemicals from boat paint in the bay as well as hunting and landfills? but no ....oohhh wait i forgot because its something to do with a game it gets all of the attention why dont those overzealous tree huggers (fyi i take environmentalism very seriously just on actual thing not stupid things like balloons) go protest a walmart or something for some crap reason 3) there is a balloon council ? gee i wonder what i need to do to get a glorious job like that *yawn* because that will sure say something about my social life

ryguy96
ryguy96

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

benz1980i
benz1980i

I have read through alot of the comments below and am a little surprised by the comments? If these balloons have gone into the Bay where fish, birds, turtles and the 100's of other animals live, how is that not a problem?? The ballonsare there now, will be there tomorrow, will be there next week, next month. This is going to have a big impact on this area. I am a 30 year old guy that loves games, but seriously, some of you guys need to mature up a little.

h3rb
h3rb

RELAX. sheesh... baby bears love ballons too!

Haz_Matt
Haz_Matt

@ PizzaWizard: It would probably have been more stupid not to put their name on the balloons.. not much of an advertisement if no one knows what it's for! I wonder if San Francisco are going to ban balloons from any parades they have in future because of this? I doubt it. Again, videogames become an easy target for people who have a point to make about the state of the world today.

lozo777
lozo777

Lol'd at the story, lol'd at the comments below, lol'd at San Fran for making such a big deal about it. Pretty sure the world won't die from a few balloons.

mp01juve
mp01juve

How powerful is this balloon council? Do they have the right to burst my bubble?

TheClown24
TheClown24

This could not have gone better for THQ, this huge fuss is massive advertising for Homefront

LoRdKooP
LoRdKooP

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

RaddaRaddaRadda
RaddaRaddaRadda

You know what else kills animals RIGHT NOW? Hunters. Cars. Other animals. Flying into windows. I say we eliminate all these and other threats so that no animal needs to feel threatened ever again. :D YAY IDEALISM. Also, someone ask to Ms. Bauer to explain the difference between a bird getting entangled in a balloon sitting in the bay and a bird getting entangled in a balloon sitting in an open landfill.

PizzaWizard13
PizzaWizard13

im sorry, but i have to laugh at both ends of this. 1. the environmentalists for freaking out. 2. the promoters for not thinking this through. (next time dont put your name on the balloons).

m4a5
m4a5

And this is why I hate the hardcore, good for nothing environmentalists. They NEVER seem to act rational and they look like the idiot for it. Personally, I would've deleted the comment with the excuse of flaming...

ShadowarGET
ShadowarGET

lol enviro-freaks just want to get popular that's all : P i simply feel sad for them, shouldn't they rather go back and have some sex with their fake global warming?

BravoOneActual
BravoOneActual

"San Fransiscans Angry Over Everything" Might be a more apropriate title for this article.

homegirl2180
homegirl2180

[aimed at the people mentioned in the article] I'm big on environmentalism, but they're made from soy and are biodegradable and biodegrade quickly and even if eaten, will not harm an animal! Seriously! Stop trying to promote yourself and shut up. Right now.

Yajarobi
Yajarobi

People just rly have it out for video games. my gOd, friggen srsly...

spector000
spector000

Sure lets bash THQ for some boalloons, i whould love to see any of them bash Microsoft for all the cd's, dvd's of the last 5 OS's. When do those biodegrade in 10000000 years or so ?

Cruisemissile
Cruisemissile

Ive noticed that theres a constant thumbing down from at least 2-3 people on people who dont like environmentalists or something else, in other news theres balloons that are degrading stuck floating in the bay !O_O! And now for the weather...

Skullcandy
Skullcandy

I'm sorry but I can't help laughing at this. That last paragraph kills me, I can't get the image of dead turtles and whales and seals washing ashore draped with Gamestop balloons. It was really a stupid marketing idea, but there is some obvious bias here based on the fact that it was meant for gamers. Obviously we don't care about the environment. I try to strangle a turtle to death every chance I get. Stupid turtles with their shells and stubby little tails...

Peets83
Peets83

This only happens in the US.You guys are so funny.

NettoSaito
NettoSaito

sooo, THQ kills turtles and tree huggers freak out? lol bet they find a way to tie this to "video games make people violent!"

frankblack789
frankblack789

who would've thought that gamers, who are supposed to be progressive, would be such a bunch of anti-environmental, imbecilic cretins.

thrice00
thrice00

Pfffff Stup*d environmentalist!!!! We're abut to be invade by a unified *North* Korea!!!!!!! We don't care about birds!!!

TheRealLisaAnn
TheRealLisaAnn

They should have tied them together (in flocks, LOL) and then went to retrieve them after release. D-UUUUHHHHH guys.

cr8ive
cr8ive

I wonder if these environmentalists use any gadgets or automobiles... What? You didn't know that computers are non-biodegradable?? a bird could curiously land in front of a moving car and get ran over too!

gamerpipe
gamerpipe

They should have brought in north korean army to San Francisco as promotion , I think it might not offended anyone.

rbereczki
rbereczki

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

illmatic87
illmatic87

THQ should have got those winged monkeys from Wizard of oz instead

gamingfrendly
gamingfrendly

if peole in San Fransisco care about nature they must wake up at 6 in the morning and see the butefull smoke clouds over high ways.