Recently there has been a picture being shared on social media which shows a bus stop advertizement with a glass case containing what purports to be $3 million dollars. The story goes that 3M is so confident about the strength of its bulletproof glass that it has put out a challenge that if anyone can break the case open the money is theirs for the taking. Often when this story is shared, only minimal details are provided, giving the impression that somewhere right now there is a case of free money just waiting for the right person who is clever enough to figure out how to crack it open and snatch the cash. But what’s the real story? Although this story has taken on mythological proportions – a fact which 3M is probably quite pleased about – the truth isn’t quite what people imagine it to be.
First, there is the timing of the viral ad campaign. Rather than being current, it actually happened back in early 2005, when 3M set up the promotional stunt at a Vancouver, Canada bus stop. The glass poster case was prepared by covering it with a 3M product called Scotchshield, which is a see-through film that can be applied to glass to make it stronger. Then, people passing by were challenged to break the glass in exchange for a $3 million prize for whoever who breached the glass first. Certain other “facts” surrounding the stunt are also not quite what people believe. For example:
- The case did not contain $3 million. In actuality, it held only $500 in Canadian currency. The rest was fake. Presumably, if someone had broken the case open they would have received their prize through some other more secure method, such as a check.
- The glass itself was not bulletproof. It had a film applied to it to strengthen it.
- 3M does not claim that Scotchshield makes glass bullet proof. Instead, it is designed to make glass more shatter resistant so there is less risk of injury from flying shards of glass.
- The case was never just sitting in the open waiting for anyone who passed by to break it open. It was set up for one day and was carefully protected by security guards.
- The stunt was actually remarkably cheap for 3M to pull off compared to all of the attention that it still seems to gather. In addition to the fact that only $500 was actually in the case, other expenses were probably minimal as well, such as a one-day rental of the poster box and a team of security personnel.
- While passersby were allowed to do some crazy things in their attempts to break the glass – such as getting a running start to kick the case and taking a sledgehammer to it – it wasn’t exactly a free-for-all. When the aluminum frame around the poster began to give way the security guards called a halt to the challenge. After all, it had to be the glass which broke rather than the frame around it.
So, yes, the 3M $3 million challenge to break through a piece of bulletproof glass really did happen, but many of the facts surrounding the ad campaign have been altered over time as the story was circulated around the Internet.
By Nancy Schimelpfening