Some, in fact, have been so questionable that it's hard to believe anyone greenlighted the campaigns.
Consider Universal Pictures' recent marketing campaign for "The Fourth Kind." To promote this movie, about supposed alien abductions near Nome, Ala., the studio posted a series of fake news reports online. For instance, Universal created a fake obituary and news item about one Dr. William Tyler -- husband of "The Fourth Kind"'s Abigail Tyler, played by Milla Jovovich. But the reports looked as if they had actually been published in 2000 by the real newspaper Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "Neither the story nor the obituary ever appeared in the newspaper," the News-Minerreports.
Of course, this is hardly the only time an entertainment company has engaged in a problematic campaign online. Earlier this summer, HBO and Gawker Media raised eyebrows when Gawker pretended it had bought a blog about vampires to promote "True Blood." But at least Gawker was in on the so-called joke, even if some news outlets were fooled.
In Alaska, the News-Miner and other papers whose names were appropriated for the campaign were none too happy about the initiative. Seven media companies complained to Universal, which this week agreed to settle by paying $20,000 to the Alaska Press Club and removing the fake news reports.