The publicity arms of movie studios have become increasingly creative in getting the word out about new releases, but did 20th Century Fox go too far by planting fake news about Vladimir Putin having a secret meeting with Donald Trump prior to the 2016 election in order to raise awareness of an upcoming movie?
That appears to be the case after the studio created an elaborate yet 100-per-cent fake story on some websites purporting to be the sites of such fictitious newspapers as The Sacramento Dispatch, The Houston Leader, the NY Morning Post and The Salt Lake City Guardian, reporting that Putin and Trump met at a remote wellness centre in the Swiss alps — the same wellness centre that’s the focus of new Fox thriller “A Cure for Wellness”.
In addition to the faux news story, the websites also included bogus weather updates and other make-believe news stories, including a story about a malady identified as “Trump Depression Disorder,” even asking readers to raise awareness of this not-actually-real illness by tweeting the hashtag #cureforwellness, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The film, from director Gore Verbinski, follows a young executive (Dane DeHaan) who visits a mysterious wellness centre in the Alps in search of his company’s missing CEO, only to discover the “cure” being given to patients is what’s been making them ill.
Following some serious backlash, 20th Century Fox has yanked the websites and issued an apology for planting faux news at a time when President Trump decries such established journalistic entities as CNN and the New York Times as “fake news.”
“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,” a 20th Century Fox spokesperson said in a statement released on Thursday. “The digital campaign was inappropriate on every level, especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers.”
The statement concludes: “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.”