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February 23, 2017

JS121304892wellness-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqtR1WRZ4lb6BOb1-FBRpn-vixAe7QffzLLOJK8oyLw4wAmid the crowded space of online news forums and reporting sites, interspersed with click-bait titles and sensational headlines, it becomes arguably difficult if not altogether impossible to tease apart legitimate the authentic from the veneered plastic of published news. The tendency to share, transmit and of course, buy into a story that proves either too good, or too overwhelmingly unlikely, based on the premise of it’s credence as ‘news’, happens all the time. So, perhaps it would come to nobody’s surprise that someone somewhere would seize the chance to operate a campaign scheme on this very horrifyingly pandemic and detrimental habit.

Released in cinemas recently, the movie A Cure for Wellness starring Dane DeHaan, has entered a realm of general taboo where news-writing and honorable journalism is concerned with it’s marketing campaign. As all big budget blockbusters tend to do, the film was teased, baited and temptingly introduced to the palettes of moviegoers around the world through the usual round of guerrilla advertising. But unlike what had been seen in, say, The Dark Knight Returns’ viral marketing campaign which had eager fans of the movie scurrying about a city to ‘tag’ pieces of graffiti that had been enhanced with Alternate Reality technology, the marketing team behind A Cure for Wellness elected to go on a path less travelled; fake news sites.

Now, normally, fake news sites like The Onion tend to make it pretty explicitly obvious that what they publish isn’t news. Which is a-okay. Unless you happen to be both thick and obtuse. The problem, or some would say, in a twisted sense, genius, behind the marketing campaign for A Cure for Wellness was… well, nobody knew that the news sites put up in conjunction with the campaign were fake. And that was by design. Going by the titles of The Sacramento Dispatch, Houston Leader, Salt Lake City Guardian, the New York Morning Post, it’s easy to say that these ‘news sites’ appeared to be just as legitimate as The New York Times.

To add on to that, you had articles, legitimate full articles, to access and read on these sites, usually bearing such titles that played into current concerns and anxieties about the world and It’s affairs such as “LEAKED: Lady Gaga Halftime Performance to Feature Muslim Tribute”, or that Americans were beginning to show signs of suffering from a form of depression caused by the current administration, aptly dubbed as Trump Depression Disorder (which in our books, might just be a legitimate disorder).

Given the almost completely reputable news sources that these had been published into, it came to almost no surprise that an immediate backlash would flare up as a consequence. People who had accessed these articles were decidedly unamused by the evident deception, some having been debunked swiftly by online sleuths at Snopes. Social media users have taken to the hashtags in open protest at how the marketing campaign had crossed an unwritten but definitely observed line between marketing, and deception. One said that it “sets a frightening precedent for Hollywood to manipulate,” with another tweeting “boycott #CureForWellness for highly irresponsible creation of fake news in today’s environment. Wait until it’s free or bootlegged.”

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20th Century Fox has since issued a statement that agreed with the general tide of malcontent, stating that their campaign was indeed, “inappropriate on every level”. Only, one would wonder, if that does help remedy the evident ill-favor that A Cure for Wellness had received only days into it’s debut on the silver screen. How do you feel about this? Do you think that this proved to be a moment of unconventional marketing, or maybe that 20th Century Fox took it just a step too far? Would you have fallen victim to these news sites? Given the times that we now live in that enables us to disperse and convey information to a mass audience within mere seconds, these happen to be important questions to pose. Funny how they would come from the most unlikely of places.

watch the trailer here: