Call Of Duty Tries To Pull An Orson Welles And Gets Backlash Instead Of Panic
from the nice-try dept
There are just so many ways to get marketing stunts wrong, particularly in an era where these stunts and their effects can go viral so quickly. You can stage a protest against your own product, for instance. Or maybe you can pimp your cartoon show in such a way that a major city calls out the bomb squads. Or, hey, why not just fake having an entire office building taken hostage to celebrate the release of a new bit of technology? Pretty dumb, right?
Well, how about as dumb as trying to remake the infamous (and probably massively apocryphal) radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds by yanking the stunt into modernity using Twitter instead of radio?
Call of Duty’s attempt to merge the futuristic fiction of its latest game, Black Ops 3, with rapid-fire Twitter marketing has met with some criticism – enough to warrant an apology from the game’s campaign director, Jason Blundell.
“I personally am very sorry for anyone who looked at it and got the wrong idea because it genuinely wasn’t meant that way,” Blundell tells IGN.
Blundell is referring to a briefly staged takeover of the Call of Duty Twitter account on 29 September, during which the channel’s name was changed to “Current Events Aggregate.” The account tweeted several out-of-place stories, seemingly plucked from a news source in the near future – the same future proposed by Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. It wasn’t until the reports suggested a terrorist attack in Singapore that followers criticized the stunt as lacking in context and being in poor taste. Several outlets, including the BBC, reported on the social backlash.
It seems that there was nothing like the widespread panic to this stunt as the legend of the broadcast of The War of the Worlds entailed, but still, what were they thinking? There are enough world events centering around terrorist attacks in enough parts of the world that are so often reported on Twitter before other sources that they had to realize that some percentage of readers would think that this renamed Twitter handle was reporting on real-world events. Even once the name was changed back, quick-scrollers would likely only see the headline first, and possibly react to it as though it were real news.
BREAKING NEWS: Unconfirmed reports are coming in of an explosion on the North bank of the Singapore Marina.
— Call of Duty (@CallofDuty) September 29, 2015
Is this cruel? No. Hell no. Was it dumb? Absolutely. Marketing doesn’t occur in a vacuum, after all, and part of the point of this marketing stunt is that the Call of Duty franchise strives for a certain kind of gritty realism, dealing with topics of terrorism and war. Tone-deaf marketing atempts that might misinform are more likely than not to end in apologies, as did happen in this case. And for what benefit?
“It was done on our channel, and it was to talk about the fiction of the world, says Blundell. ”I think we were as shocked as everybody else when it started blowing up, because essentially we were teeing up ready for a story beat.” Blundell also distances himself from involvement in the marketing, saying “it was absolutely not done for any kind of attention in any way.”
That just doesn’t pass the smell test, unfortunately. You don’t devise Twitter marketing stunts and then get surprised when they get attention. Probably best at this point to make it a bit easier to identify the fiction in the “story beat,” I think.