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Fear, And Marketing

Current News Aggregate

Nobody gets to be Orson Welles.

Activision recently engaged in a Twitter-only marketing stunt for the latest Call of Duty title. They re-skinned their Twitter account as a fictional news agency — “Current Events Aggregate” — and began tweeting about a terrorist attack in Singapore.

Current News Aggregate

During the fictional attack, a breathless series of tweets reported a huge explosion at a research laboratory on Singapore’s marina, followed by converging riot teams, general chaos, a 30-mile quarantine zone, and military intervention. Activision concluded the stunt with a tweet saying, “This was a glimpse into the future fiction of #BlackOps3”, and reverted the @CallofDuty account back to normal.

Activision marketing stunt.
Note: these tweets would have been accompanied by the “Current Events Aggregate” logo rather than the CoD logo. Courtesy BBC.

Thankfully, they kept their account name as @CallofDuty throughout (nobody tell them you can change it), but in all other respects, this marketing stunt was irresponsible beyond belief.

It is 2015. You do not get to be Orson Welles. Nobody gets to be Orson Welles. Orson Welles got to be Orson Welles, once, in 1938, and was rightly crucified for it. (To this day, advertising textbooks swoon romantically over the widespread panic that resulted from his War of the Worlds adaptation, which should tell you everything you need to know about advertising.)

Again, it is 2015. Mainstream news agencies have lost a good deal of the public trust. Many people now get their news via Facebook shares, Twitter links, and Reddit. While I have my opinions about this trend, exploiting it with a fictional terror event — particularly since English Twitter reaches countries that are hit by terror events much more regularly than Canada and the States — is beyond folly.

But this stunt was especially irresponsible for one particular reason.

This is an ISIS recruitment poster:

An ISIS recruitment poster.
Courtesy of The Guardian.

According to reports in the Guardian, Salon.com, and elsewhere, ISIS used this image and others to recruit young people on Facebook and Twitter last summer.

Very simply, Activision: when actual terrorists are using your video game as a recruitment tool, how dare you market yourself with terror?

Jesse Mackenzie is the Managing Editor for aybonline.com. He can be reached at jessem@aybonline.com, and his opinions are his own.

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