News Article

Weirdness: When PR Stunts Go Wrong - Watch Dogs

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Anonymous package caused office evacuation and bomb disposal call

Wii U owners may not be able to play Watch Dogs this week, but that doesn't mean Nintendo gamers shouldn't follow Ubisoft's release with some interest — it is apparently still coming to Nintendo's system this year, remember. We can also get a laugh from bonkers PR moves that have gone wrong, such as an example that afflicted the Ninemsn offices in Australia.

As reported by mumbrella.com — thanks, Kotaku — the press office received a courier-delivered, but not signed-for, package that caused some alarm. A rather intimidating mini-safe arrive with a note for the journalist in question to check their voicemail, and naturally there was no message; confused staff then attempted to open the safe with a pin code that was taped on, at which point the box started to beep. Naturally worried it could be an explosive device — a reasonable concern — the newsroom discovered that no other press offices they contacted had a similar box; staff on the building's 6th floor were sent home and bomb disposal officers were called in to open the safe in the building's basement. Ninemsn editor Hal Crawford said the following.

This is definitely the other side of the line in terms of what it’s safe for a PR company to send anonymously to a newsroom. The thing was black, heavy and slightly creepy.

We did check with other newsrooms to see if they had received a similar package as we thought it was a PR stunt, but no-one else had. We weren’t panicked at any point, but given there was no note explaining what it was, we had to take sensible precautions.

Quite right, too. What was in the box, after all that fuss? A copy of the game, a baseball cap and a beanie hat, with a note that it was embargoed until 5pm.

It's unclear whether Ubisoft or an external agency sent the package, though ultimately the responsibility falls on the publisher. If it was an agency, we suspect they'll be fielding some extremely irritated calls from their client; Ubisoft doesn't appear to have provided a statement on the incident as yet.

This is a good warning for PR agencies, though — don't send intimidating and beeping locked boxes, with no indication of what they are, to press offices.

[via mumbrella.com.au, kotaku.com]

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User Comments (51)

TwilightV

#3

TwilightV said:

I don't think it was funny. The woman journalist who received the package was reportedly in tears.

outburst

#5

outburst said:

They could have just notified security or the head of the press office prior or upon delivery about their plan.

Yai

#6

Yai said:

LOL You would think they would at least warn them its safe or who sent it. At least then it wouldn't be a bomb scare.

MAB

#8

MAB said:

It made news headlines... So the PR stunt obviously was successful ;)

Nik-Davies

#10

Nik-Davies said:

Why didn't they put the Watch_Dogs symbol on the side?
Geez...
Ubisoft THINK before you ACT next time

Cyberbotv2

#11

Cyberbotv2 said:

That's definitely not funny. Hopefully, the intended audience doesn't decide to carry around guns hacking into people's phones...oh wait...

BLPs

#12

BLPs said:

Ah, so all those little kiddies we KNOW are getting this game will think something like this.

"Doing stuff in the game was cool with no negative repercussions, and this PR stunt meant nothing bad, so what if I..."

And then I can start taking bets on what headline news stories we here in the UK get regarding a certain 50 states and bad things going on.

MAB

#14

MAB said:

The intended audience for W_D will be no different from the people that are going to get MK8... Gamers that like playing games ;)

Mega719

#15

Mega719 said:

Geez if this really was from Ubisoft they would have again angered millions of fans with this stunt.People may stop buying that game

tsukipon

#16

tsukipon said:

Bomb scares are a big thing here and they pulled a stunt like this? Anonymous package, no explanation, no warning to a manager or head of security, are you serious Ubisoft. They are gonna get teal flak for this because a bomb squad was called in.

SilverArrow

#18

SilverArrow said:

Read, people. That clearly says Australia and it also doesn't say whether or not it was Ubisoft.

MAB

#19

MAB said:

Aussies have already laughed it off and are now enjoying the State of Origin football and beer ;)

Jazzer94

#22

Jazzer94 said:

Wait isn't Watch dogs about hacking with a phone not running around mailing bombs to people silly Ubisoft.

Starwolf_UK

#23

Starwolf_UK said:

So I'm guessing if the voice mail part worked like it was supposed to there would be less trouble. Is it a smart press package because it got in the news though?

I'm remind of the blunder EA had in 2008 where they sent Brass Knuckles with the Godfather II and upon finding these were prohibited weapons in a number of states had to recall them.

Reading the source and hearing of those live animal PR stunts though.

Goginho

#24

Goginho said:

Think things thoroughly through (:P lol?) when doing something like that people. Jeez. Think ahead a bit. So unprofessional.

Samwise7

#26

Samwise7 said:

As someone who has worked in game PR I do find this amusing. Not the trouble it caused but the general brainstrorming session that it oroginated from where they all thought it was a genius idea...if only they got the guys number right and left a voicemail or at least made sure the pin worked. Classic PR stupidity. Love it.

OneBagTravel

#30

OneBagTravel said:

It's win win for them. They'll get press if no one freaks out and they just open it and run the piece or if they call the cops and it gets to what we see today.

Clara

#31

Clara said:

Silly PR people, at least put it in some watch dogs themed packaging.
Anyhow I think someone in the PR department will be getting a demotion.

Luigifan141

#32

Luigifan141 said:

Can someone enlighten me on why people were defending Ubisoft and claiming that they are good when I bashed them for being a cash cow company?

Lobster

#41

Lobster said:

I'm not laughing at the poor people in that office or the bomb squad that got called in - those people all had a legitimately bad day. But I AM laughing at the PR guy who put that together thinking, "Oh, this is such a great idea!" Or more than likely NOT thinking! Wow. Way to not send any signals whatsoever that your package was safe! I know there's no such thing as bad publicity but I'm guessing whoever came up with the stunt is going to hear about it at work anyway.

yuwarite

#47

yuwarite said:

Can't wait to play it on PC. PC once again proves it the superior platform for multiplats like this, not PS4.

shaneoh

#48

shaneoh said:

I think the funniest part of all this is that they thought themselves important enough to blow up. Although it is Ninemsn....

MrL1193

#51

MrL1193 said:

http://www.polygon.com/2014/5/28/5757168/watch-dogs-promotion-triggers-bomb-squad-response-to-major-publication

"'Our team in Australia sent voicemail messages to some local media alerting them that they'd receive a special package related to the game,' Ubisoft said in a statement issued to Polygon. 'Unfortunately, the delivery to Ninemsn didn't go as planned, and we unreservedly apologise to Ninemsn's staff for the mistake and for any problems caused as a result. We will take additional precautions in the future to ensure this kind of situation doesn't happen again.'"

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