UPDATE: Fox has now apologized for the fake news sites.
“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 Fox spokesman said, reports Deadline.com. “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.”
Original story below:
Discussion of “fake news” is a huge deal these days. After being a pervasive media narrative during the election cycle, Facebook and other platforms are making efforts to stop the spread of inaccurate information even as it becomes more pervasive. Not only that but, without getting too political, it’s also become weaponized, as anything that is offensive or unpleasant to someone’s sensibilities is labeled as “fake news,” often with “Sad!” appended to the commentary.
Twentieth Century Fox, though, is hoping some fake news can help bring people in to its new movie, A Cure for Wellness.
The film’s plot involves a young investigator named Lockhart, played by Dane DeHaan, who’s sent to a resort clinic in the Swiss Alps to retrieve a corporate executive who’s gone missing. When he get there, he finds more than he expected, with lots of mysterious talk about a “cure” that involves unorthodox treatments and a lot of patients who aren’t allowed to leave and who never seem to get better.
To promote the movie, according to BuzzFeed, Fox created a handful of fake news sites that feature outlandish stories about President Trump and his health, fictitious events in places like Salt Lake City, Houston and elsewhere, and the occasional headline about how audiences reacted in panic and terror to screenings of A Cure for Wellness.
Most of the health-related stories also included a prompt to tweet them out using #cureforwellness, the movie’s official hashtag.
Hollywood studios love to create campaigns that take audiences into the world of the movies being marketed. Last summer we saw videos and websites for Independence Day: Resurgence (also from Fox) that marked the in-world anniversary of the alien attack of the 1996 original.
But this is one of the first times that substantive websites designed to look and feel like real news outlets have been created as part of the marketing. Back in 2012, Warner Bros. created a website for The New Frontiersman, the conspiracy rag that features heavily into the story, to promote Watchmen. But considering the story took place in the 1980s, that effort was never really going to be confused for a legitimate outlet.
Fox obviously wanted to tap into the current hand-wringing around news credibility and accuracy. As the BuzzFeed story says, all those sites are now down and the URLs redirect to the official movie website. While the tactic of creating untrue news, at a time when media literacy seems to be waning and people are all too eager to share stories that fit into their worldview, seems questionable, it seems to have done the job in raising awareness for the thriller.
How that translates to box-office results will be gauged this weekend.
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