Twentieth Century Fox issued an apology Thursday for creating fake news websites as part of a digital marketing campaign for its upcoming film A Cure for Wellness.
“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 studio said in a statement Thursday. “The digital campaign was inappropriate on every level, especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers.”
“We have reviewed our internal approval process and made appropriate changes to ensure that every part of a campaign is elevated to and vetted by management in order to avoid this type of mistake in the future. We sincerely apologize.”
A Cure for Wellness stars Dane DeHaan as a young company man tasked with retrieving his CEO from a mysterious wellness center in the Swiss Alps, but who soon finds that the place is not what it seems. The Gore Verbinski-directed horror film is due out in theaters on Friday.
As part of its campaign for the film, Fox reportedly created at least five websites with names likes The Salt Lake City Guardian and the Sacramento Dispatch that featured fake news items. One of the fake stories claimed that President Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin in a Swiss resort during the 2016 campaign, while another claimed Trump would impose a temporary ban on vaccinations. Yet another claimed that the American Medical Association had classified “Trump Depression Disorder” as a real disease.
The websites hosted advertisements and references to the film sprinkled in to the fake news stories.
Fox initially defended its campaign in a statement this week as some criticized the studio’s marketing tactic on social media.
“A Cure for Wellness is a movie about a ‘fake’ cure that makes people sicker,” the studio said. “As part of this campaign, a ‘fake’ wellness site, healthandwellness.co, was created and we partnered with a fake news creator to publish fake news. As our movie’s antagonist says, ‘There is a sickness inside us. And only when we know what ails us, can we hope to find the cure.”’
The fake site now redirects to the film’s official website.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum