Twentieth Century Fox has issued an apology for a tone-deaf marketing scheme for a new film that hinged on fake news articles planted on websites it invented.
BuzzFeed reported that the articles began appearing late last week to promote the studio’s “A Cure for Wellness.” Many of the posts seemed intended to incite buzz on both ends of the political spectrum, including an invented story on a secret meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin at a Swiss spa, and another on Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance paying tribute to Muslims. Headlines relating to the film, such as “Psychological Thriller Screening Leaves Texas Man In Catatonic State,” were sprinkled in between.
Variety noted that there was no indicator on the websites that the stories were part of a marketing effort.
Defending its decision to BuzzFeed, production company Regency Enterprises explained in a statement that it’d partnered up with 20th Century Fox on the marketing project because the film is about a fake cure for disease that actually makes patients more sick. Fake cure, fake news. Get it?
At a time when fake news ― a term for invented stories from websites like Liberty Writers News that gain traction over social media ― has become a worrisome issue for audiences seeking real information and legitimate news media seeking to provide it, the company’s marketing scheme seemed harebrained. An apology was issued Thursday.
“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. The digital campaign was inappropriate on every level, especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers,” a 20th Century Fox spokesperson said in a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter.
The five fake news sites noted by BuzzFeed ― with titles like Salt Lake City Guardian and Houston Leader, meant to mimic local news websites ― now redirect to the film’s official site.