“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.”
“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.”