The old saying “the best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry”comes from a line by Scottish poet Robert Burns. It means that no matter how well a project is planned, something may still go wrong. In the case of these plans, what went wrong was…they worked.
Wild Turkey in California
THE PLAN: In 1959 a program was started to aggressively introduce wild turkey populations to California. Officials hoped having the game birds would mean big revenue from local and out-of-state hunters.
IT WORKED…By 1969 there were enough turkeys for a regular hunting season. By the 1980s, there were tens of thousands of them.
…TOO WELL! In 2003 California officials began introducing programs to get rid of wild turkeys. There were more than a quarter million of the birds living in the state, and they were wreaking havoc. Biologists said they were invading habitats of native birds, consuming endangered species of plants and animals, damaging crops, ruining gardens, fouling backyards—and sometimes even attacking children.
Klum to Model Swimsuit for H&M
THE PLAN: In May 2003, German advertising firm JC Decaux presented fashion chain H&M with a marketing plan for a new line of bikini swimwear. The idea was simple: plaster the country with posters of German supermodel Heidi Klum wearing the sexy swimsuits.
IT WORKED…The Klum ads became one of the most successful advertising campaigns in the country’s history. H&M reported huge sales.
…TOO WELL! More than half of the posters were immediately stolen. Not only that, people smashed display cases to get them. JC Decaux president Hans-Peter Bischoff said, “We put up 750 small posters, and they were all gone within a few hours. It’s madness.” The company had to hire guards to protect the display boxes while they figured out a solution. The solution: H&M started giving the posters away for free.
Sunscreen Ad Campaign in Australia
THE PLAN: After a hole was discovered in the ozone layer above Australia in the mid-1980s, the government began aggressive ad campaigns to warn people about the risks of getting too much sun. The ozone layer acts as a filter against the dangerous ultraviolet rays in sunlight, and the country already had the highest skin cancer rates in the world. One of the most popular campaigns was “Slip, Slop, Slap”: “Slip on a shirt, Slop on sunscreen, and Slap on a hat!”
IT WORKED…National health associations credited the campaign with making sunscreen usage a normal part of life for many Australians, saving countless lives.
…TOO WELL! In 2000 officials announced that nearly 25% of Australian adults were vitamin D deficient. How do you get vitamin D? Primarily by exposure to sunlight—the skin produces it in reaction to the sun’s rays. Lack of the vitamin can cause a host of health risks, including osteoporosis, and is believed to be linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancer.
Boost the Economy with Credit Cards
THE PLAN: To get its citizens to spend money, and thus boost the country’s faltering economy, in 1999 South Korea instituted a program making it easy for anyone to obtain a credit card.
IT WORKED…The nation’s economic growth climbed by 10% in the first year alone.
…TOO WELL! By 2003 the average South Korean worker had four credit cards and consumers had rung up more than $100 billion in debt. There were so many unpaid credit card accounts that the nation’s largest credit company had to stop issuing money from their ATMs and had to get an emergency loan just to stay afloat. Credit card debt was also blamed for a rash of suicides, thefts, kidnappings, and prostitution cases. “Koreans ate a poison pill,” economist Kim Kyeong Won told Time magazine, “It tasted sweet at the time, but was still poison.”
Reprinted from Uncle John’s Slightly Irregular Bathroom Reader. ©2004 by the Bathroom Reader’s Press.