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Who is behind the anti-Universal billboard campaign?

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Published: September 5, 2008 at 10:59 AM

There's been lots of big media attention in Central Florida over the past few days about Universal Orlando's ad campaign for Halloween Horror Nights.

Specifically, a mothers' group is complaining the billboards put up around the tourist corridor are too graphic and disturbing for young kids. "This year, I find the billboards truly unacceptable to our community," one mom was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel (see story linked above.)

My initial thought when reading these stories was... "you've got to be kidding." This 'protest' is simply going to give Universal Orlando a ton of free publicity for HHN. I wonder if it is real?

So I Googled "Erin Heston," the mom quoted in the Sentinel piece. Turns out she's... a PR agent. Her personal website now redirects to a parked domain page, but search-engine caches of PDFs from the site show that she is a "communications consultant" and was a PR rep for Enterprise Florida, "a public-private partnership serving as Florida’s primary organization devoted to statewide economic development."

(Erinheston.com was first registered on Aug. 30, 2006, according to NetworkSolutions.com and expired on the same day this year, which is why the domain is no longer active.)

So, if this is the same Erin Heston, and I couldn't find any records for another one in Orlando (using a variety of online people searches), we've got a PR campaign from a professional PR agent, who once represented an economic development organization, that's resulting in a ton of free pub for an event that's a huge economic boon to Central Florida in what used to be a pretty slow time of the year.

Astroturf? Or blowback? Either way, I'm sure that UO is loving the attention.

Readers' Opinions

From W McCarthy on September 5, 2008 at 11:11 AM
Astroturf!
From Iris Hernandez on September 5, 2008 at 12:50 PM
Universal is just doing what they do best. These sign are awesome and I just explain to my children that they are not real. And I know they are just loving all this free promo!
From Robert Niles on September 5, 2008 at 1:18 PM
BTW, how come whenever I go to the Universal Orlando website today and click on the Tickets links, I get redirected to the tickets page in Spanish? Is this happening to anyone else?
From Brandon Mendoza on September 5, 2008 at 7:52 PM
I'm not into conspiracy theories, but is this actually part of their advertising? Just someone they hired to create more hoopla about an event?
From Anthony Murphy on September 5, 2008 at 10:05 PM
Probably will give Universal more help than harm, but if I was Disney or Seaworld, I would be very angry that they are putting those up so that their base (mostly younger children)would see it driving to the Magic Kingdom. I would be a little worried too if I had kids though the blood dripping sounds cool.
From Jeff Nielson on September 6, 2008 at 4:26 AM
I think that Disney Parks are better than Universal Parks. Did you ever ride the E.T. ride in CA? Now THAT is SCARY!!! LOL.

Just in case you didnt get the joke. The E.T. ride is scary because it was built so incredibly cheap.

From Bo Pedersen on September 7, 2008 at 10:25 AM
Great PR stunt feeding on the usual Political Correctness brigade and all those "Hockey Moms" who worry about their children far too much.

I wish I was there for the Halloween celebrations! :)

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