Commentary

Fake Newspaper Ads Pulled From Movie Campaign

Ten years ago a stunt marketing campaign online propelled "The Blair Witch Project" to $250 million in box office receipts, but few other Web hoaxes have been similarly successful.

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.

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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.

1 comment about "Fake Newspaper Ads Pulled From Movie Campaign".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., November 16, 2009 at 1:08 p.m.

    I'm a bit non-plussed about this article: people don't actually believe everything they read on the web, do they? I can go buy www.sausageinvasion.com (assuming it isn't already taken) and create a fairly convincing website that purports that the US is run by sausage-headed creatures from mars. I can create blogs, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter accounts - heck, I'm pretty good in Premiere, I can fake some sausage-head video and upload it to YouTube. I can do all this in a few days at at NO POINT in this process will anybody challenge me about the reality (or lack of reality) of the sausage invasion. The only thing I can get in trouble for is pretending that a "legit" news source covered this - BUT, if I'm convincing enough, odds are a legit news source WILL cover it. The film Cloverfield had several newscasts in different languages and created an entire corporate flash site for a non-existant soft-drink company. Never confuse the internet with reality.

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