It has been over 1 week since the New York Times faked-out visitors with phony headlines of mass casualties and catastrophic events in what turned out to be an ad for the movie World War Z.Initially, I was reminded of the public reaction to the War of the Worlds broadcast in which people in ancient times mistook a science fiction radio program for actual news and panicked because aliens were descending on our fair planet. You can’t buy that kind of organic mass-hysteria PR these days.
But this? This just seems insensitive and not very memorable. It’s hard to get excited for a zombie movie when the fake headlines aren’t far off from what’s actually happening in the world: humanitarian crises, people living without power in difficult circumstances, huge loss of life. It hit a little too close to home.
The Game of Thrones Season 3 ad in the NY Times, however, smashed this one to pieces in a game of rock-paper-scissors (dragons-zombies-journalism?) and remains one of my recent favorites.It’s cleaner, it’s more clever, and it builds real excitement rather than crying impending doom. Plus, it doesn’t make the paper look like a false version of itself, even though the shadow was printed over fake articles (because how do you bill a dragon shape in ad space?). That is something that newspapers can’t afford when pundits and businesspeople are claiming their industry is dead on a daily basis. Plus, I’m sure more than a few print versions were picked up by die-hard fans as memorabilia.
The movie made enough in the days following its opening to open talks of a sequel, so I’m sure the agency and movie companies aren’t hurting from my criticism. But as a fan of both sci-fi and fantasy and newspaper reader, this one just wasn’t for me.