20th Century Fox has issued an apology after a marketing campaign tied to the upcoming horror film A Cure for Wellness was blamed for spreading "fake news" to tens of thousands of people.
The marketing team behind the Gore Verbinski-directed film created convincing websites for real-sounding newspapers like the Salt Lake City Guardian and the Houston Leader, which then posted fake stories like "Trump Orders CDC to Remove All Vaccination Related Information from Website" and "LEAKED: Lady Gaga Halftime Performance to Feature Muslim Tribute."
The latter article was shared over 65,000 times on Facebook, the New York Times reports. Co-producers Regency Enterprises previously told Buzzfeed the viral ad campaign was to promote a horror film "about a 'fake' cure that makes people sicker." Instead, it helped proliferate the virus known as "fake news," leading to 20th Century Fox's apology Thursday.
"The digital campaign was inappropriate on every level, especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers," studio spokesman Dan Berger said. "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 "fake news" articles – including one with the headline "Donald Trump Signs Executive Order Issuing 90-Day Ban on Childhood Vaccinations," another Cure for Wellness story that went viral – now link directly to the film's website.
In that vaccination story, a quote near the end of the articles reads, "A White House official speaking on behalf of the administration stated, 'It has been clear to many within the medical community that there is a sickness inside us. This sickness has been growing for years and seems to correlate with the rise in vaccination rates. The President has asked the public to rally around his decision using the hashtag #cureforwellness.'"
Hidden within the fake news stories – which added to the confusion by including real Trump tweets and actual Gaga quotes – were in-article links that teased, "Screening of Psychological Thriller Leaves Texas Man in Catatonic State."