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Why This Heisenberg Bobblehead Went to Space

Deb Amlen
Yahoo Tech

This story has everything. It has space travel. It has beautiful, aerial shots of the Utah desert. It has a bobblehead figure of Walter “Heisenberg” White from the smash TV hit Breaking Bad. It has a bunch of peculiarly motivated people launching a weather balloon and cheering like lunatics when it takes off. It even has a strategic marketing plan.

Wait, what?

That’s right. These days, everyone and her mother has a weather balloon, and they’re all launching them into space for a variety of publicity-seeking reasons. They’ve launched a can of beer into space, complete with a pair of high-fiving dudes and dramatic music. 

And we all remember the “Balloon Boy” hoax, right? Ha ha, good one, Heenes! 

Today, this sort of stunt is what passes for advertising. Because marketing people have realized that if they want to reach viewers and expose them to their products, they’re going to have to seek out their audience online. What’s more, it had better be entertaining, because, really, ain’t nobody got time for lame ads.

And real, honest-to-god television commercials? Mostly a thing of the past, because even our grandparents have figured out how to “zap” past them.

Cartoon of elderly man watching television


Except for that “Puppy Love” Budweiser commercial from the Super Bowl. You should never zap past that.

The big Heisenberg space adventure was put on by tvtag, a new TV viewership-sharing app created by i.tv.

“We invite friends over for the big game or series finale, it’s a regular topic of conversation around the water cooler, and we’re increasingly turning to social media to communicate and interact with fellow fans while we watch our favorite shows,” i.tv marketing director Johnny Galbraith told Yahoo Tech. “So, just like checking in to let our friends know we’re at a nearby bar or restaurant, there’s a desire to tell our friends and social communities what we’re watching.”

Yes, now I can tell my entire social circle that I’m enjoying the latest installment of Masterpiece Theatre over a glass of sherry while I’m really watching a Jerry Springer marathon and munching Doritos. I love technology.

The idea to launch this “Heisenbobble” into space came from a tvtag company hackathon. Not to be outdone by the über-intellectual engineers who were busy writing complex code to create the app’s emojis, doodads, and memes for people to play with, the marketing team decided there was only one way for them to go, and that was up. Viewers were allowed to vote on tvtag’s first space ambassador, and Mr. White beat out Daryl Dixon of The Walking Dead and Daenerys Targaryen of Game of Thrones.

Apparently, however, launching a balloon and calling it a marketing plan is not quite as simple as it seems. According to Galbraith, “The actual planning and preparation took two full days. We had to study wind patterns and flight projection models (making sure to follow FAA guidelines, [which prohibit sending such items into restricted airspace]), test and retest our equipment, and find a local party store with enough helium to send Mr. White skyward.”

And send him skyward they did. At around 2:20, Heisenberg’s glasses fog up, which is not surprising, considering that he was enduring temperatures of approximately -65 degrees Fahrenheit (-54 Celsius) at 85,000 feet (25,908 meters) above the Earth.

Walter White bobblehead in space


Then, just as we’re marveling at the sight of our big, blue marble over Mr. White’s plastic shoulder, the balloon pops and the entire contraption falls back to Earth, landing in a Kemmerer, Wyoming, field. He traveled a total of 250 miles and tragically suffered a broken neck. If only his DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, had known it would be that easy to take him down.

Because space, yo. And advertising.

Is there something weirdly popular on the Internet that you’d like explained? Write to Deb Amlen at buzzologyYT@yahoo.com and let her know. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@debamlen).