Unethical Websites, Unethical Publicity Campaign, Unethical Studio…Of The Month.

...but none for stupidity.

…but none for stupidity.

“Do what?”

“Sure, why not? What a great idea!”

As part of its marketing campaign for 20th Century Fox’s new  film “A Cure for Wellness,” the studio created and launched realistic websites for the Sacramento Dispatch, the Houston Leader, the Salt Lake Guardian, the New York Morning Post and  the Indianapolis Gazette. They included a graphic displaying the current weather , and above the above the story, the standard labels, such as  News, Business, Sports, Entertainment. None of these publications are real. None of them included any disclaimers or explanations.

They did contain fake anti-Donald Trump stories. One especially popular one among Trump haters on social media claimed that the President  was refusing  to provide California federal support  as 188,000 citizens were evacuated to avoid the Oroville Dam overflow. Sanctuary cities, you know.  Trump is so mean. Can we impeach him yet?

Eventually the sites and stories were discovered to be fake. When asked  about the strategy, a spokesperson for Regency Enterprises, the film’s  production company, explained that  “‘A Cure for Wellness’ is a movie about a ‘fake’ cure that makes people sicker. “As part of this campaign, a ‘fake’ wellness site healthandwellness.co was created and the company partnered with a fake news creator to publish fake news.”


20th Century Fox released an apology for  the websites, saying,

“In raising awareness for our films, we do our best to push the boundaries of traditional marketing in order to creatively express our message to consumers. In this case, we got it wrong. The digital campaign was inappropriate on every level, especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers. We have reviewed our internal approval process and made appropriate changes to ensure that every part of a campaign is elevated to and vetted by management in order to avoid this type of mistake in the future. We sincerely apologize.”

The apology was issued on last week, on the same day that President Trump, so unfairly, chastised the news media for presenting “fake news” to the public.

One marketing expert, speaking to Variety on the condition of anonymity, called the plan “monumentally stupid.”

Ya think?

“We don’t need more fake news stories. We don’t need more lies right now,’ he said.  “There is already plenty of that out on the web. It’s already hard enough for people.”




Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, The Internet, Unethical Websites

12 responses to “Unethical Websites, Unethical Publicity Campaign, Unethical Studio…Of The Month.

  1. Carcarwhite

    Curious what you think about time magazines article on Trump and the fake news accusations from him against the poor media. Did you see it?


  2. JutGory

    I don’t know if you have ever addressed this before, but what do you think of the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds? It was fake news, but it was also intended as art, as well as a mixture of the two.

  3. Joe Fowler

    The 20th Century Fox apology reads like PR-vetted corporate-speak for:
    “This was stupid, and we’ve fired the agency/people responsible.” If that is, in fact what they’re trying to say, they would have served themselves and the public better by simply saying it.

    • Chris

      I actually think it was a good apology. Jack, where do you rank this on the apology scale?

      I have seen fake news websites for movies and TV before, but nothing that could be mistaken for reality. As a kid my favorite show was (please don’t gag) Smallville, and I would visit the “Smallville Ledger” frequently. The “Holonet” was a Star Wars news site that reported on goings on in Coruscant and updates about the Clone Wars. And any Westworld fans should check out the official site and have a chat with the AI, which I’m pretty sure tried to kill me:


      But making up stories about real-life politicians is a risky move at any time, and even more so in today’s “fake news” climate. If the stories were not clearly satire than this was incredibly irresponsible.

      • I thought it was a top rank apology. They said they were sorry, that it was inexcusable, that they were taking steps to make sure it couldn’t happen again.

      • Joe Fowler

        I think it was a fair enough apology. I have a strong preference for simplicity in these types of statements, probably as a reaction to lifelong exposure to politicians. I was a bit harsh in my prior post.

  4. Wayne

    Wow! Setting up websites for fake newspapers spreading fake stories about Trump to generate publicity for a horror film. What a diabolical if dumb plot. I think these publicity clowns are going to have a mandatory meeting with Pazuzu.

  5. dragin_dragon

    I wasn’t planning on going to see this movie, anyway. Now it is certain that I won’t.

  6. E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

    Now I get it! The entire New York Times is set up a fake news outlet just to push the right Broadway shows and their (paid) book reviews! Why didn’t I think of this before? Brilliant marketing strategy. (Better check now on The New Yorker…)

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