How does one use “fake news” as a well-intentioned faux marketing ploy? Perhaps you need to make it really obvious. Signal in some way that a joke, a payoff is coming. Anything less, and your customers may just shake their heads.
For the New Regency-produced theatrical thriller “A Cure for Wellness," 21st Century Fox create fake news sites as part of its overall digital marketing campaign.
The film is about an executive who is sent to a mysterious Alpine “wellness center,” but soon finds its miraculous treatments aren’t all they’re billed to be -- thus “fake cures.”
But the effort tricked potential viewers -- driven from social media areas, like Twitter, and other digital areas -- to news sites that looked perhaps too good, misleading many.
The fake news sites had names like The Sacramento Dispatch,The Houston Leader, The NY Morning Post and The Salt Lake City Guardian.
The sites had seemingly real potential news with glaring headlines: “Bombshell: Trump and Putin Spotted At Swiss Resort Prior To Election.” Another story talked about Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show --as a tribute to Muslims. It also include faux weather reports.
"We got it wrong," a Fox spokesperson told Deadline. “The digital campaign was inappropriate on every level, especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers.”
Fake news has been a key problem for Twitter, Facebook, and Google -- many digital media companies are looking to get rid of such sites, as users complain about “trust” issues.
Now, one might give theatrical marketing people some credit in looking to piggyback on very current news topic -- fake news -- and attempting to use it. But the intent/the joke wasn’t really obvious. And that’s the problem.
Perhaps one needs to think like NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” -- some overt fun at the expense of the brand. Even then, this was promoting a mysterious minded movie; no Tiny Fey film here.
Make any of this sound too real? You’ll run into trouble -- marketing trouble.