PR Fail: Meet Our ‘Worst Pitch’ Winner

Last week (with the help of our friends at Muck Rack) we asked journalists to send us the worst pitches they’ve received from PR teams. After a short period of consideration, we’ve decided to award our highly coveted prize to this particularly un-amusing pitch, run by a certain video game maker way back in October.

The purpose of the stunt was to promote a still-in-development title on Greenlight, a crowdsourcing system run by the digital gaming community Steam to determine which games would be featured in the company store. The pitch involved a particularly heavy-handed form of peer pressure qualified by a nasty ultimatum: vote for our game or the kitty cat gets it.

The idea was fairly simple: the company pledged to donate $5000 to the Humane Society if its game came out on top. However…

“…if the game doesn’t get approval, that money will disappear, like a puff of smoke in the uncaring wind, leaving poor kitties to survive in the harsh elements, be placed in harm’s way and possibly scheduled for euthanasia…So do your part, save some cats, and see a great [game] get onto Steam’s platform. It’s a win-win!”

Hey, at least the copywriting wasn’t so bad!

We could have predicted the fate of this terrible pitch. And we’re not alone: The company received plenty of negative feedback from, well, pretty much everybody. The day after they pushed the pitch, they started backing off and telling bloggers that it had been “taken the wrong way by some people.”

That wasn’t really the problem, though. We like the donation idea, but the decision to frame it as an “or else” decision was not a very good one. The whole thing made the responsible parties look like jerks despite the fact that $5000 is a lot of pocket change–and donating it to the Humane Society would have been a very generous act.

And here’s another reason this pitch wins our “worst” contest: the company’s vice president of business development defended its very poorly developed strategy, writing: “Does anyone really think that that we were not going to make the $5000 donation, come on folks, seriously?”

Oh, OK, so it WAS supposed to be a joke. We figured that out–but it wasn’t even the least bit funny.

And we don’t even like cats.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.