Ubisoft has been forced to apologise after a PR stunt resulted in the offices of Australian newsroom ninemsn being evacuated, five police vehicles being called to the scene and ultimately the involvement of the bomb squad in dealing with a suspicious package.
The publicity stunt involved Ubisoft sending black safes to several newsrooms with information and instructions on opening it provided by voicemail. However, not only does ninemsn not cover games but the reporter who received the package did not use voicemail and had instead only received an ominous hang-up from an unknown number. Events became even more alarming when the safe began beeping after staff attempted to open it, leading to staff being sent home and the bomb squad opening the safe in a secure location – only to discover it only contained a copy of Watch Dogs and branded merchandise.
Ubisoft responded to the incident with the following statement: “As part of a themed promotion for Watch Dogs, our team in Australia sent voicemail messages to some local media alerting them that they’d receive a special package related to the game. Unfortunately, the delivery to ninemsn didn’t go as planned, and we unreservedly apologise to ninemsn’s staff for the mistake and any problems caused as a result.”
Incredibly this isn’t even the most ill-judged publicity stunt Ubisoft has undertaken in recent years. In nearby New Zealand in 2010 a marketing ploy for ‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’ involved a bandaged man brandishing a gun bursting into a crowded bar and threatening terrified customers. Not only did this incredibly irresponsible act result in panic and two police cautions for those involved, the actor hired for the event was lucky not to have been shot by the armed-response officers who arrived to disarm him. Admittedly this prior PR stunt was arranged by another marketing company on behalf of Ubisoft, but it’s remarkable that they didn’t learn from their mistakes and only four years later find themselves apologising again.
Still, all publicity is good publicity… right? Watch Dogs is available to buy now on PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4 and Xbox One.
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