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When PR stunts go wrong

I’m a bit of an environmentalist. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect, but I do make an effort and I’m getting better about it every day. I try to pick up random litter off the ground if I see it, avoid plastic when I can and make a general effort to avoid needlessly wasting things. It’s a lifestyle change that I’m happy I’ve made, but at the same time, it’s been frustrating because it’s made me a lot angrier when I see people being wasteful.

I recently received an e-mail from Justin Vallejo of fortyseven communications out of New York. We’ve worked with fortyseven a lot in the past, so when I saw his name pop up in my inbox, I gave it more than the cursory glance that I give most of the dozens of press releases we receive on any given day. The e-mail was regarding a promotional stunt the team performed to promote the upcoming PowerGig: Rise of the Six String, a game we gave a pretty tepid preview of after seeing it in action at E3.

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The e-mail informed me that “an unusual flight” occurred over Iceland a couple of weeks ago and guitar controllers, the controllers you use in Rock Band or Guitar Hero, were dumped into a volcano. There was also a YouTube video showing the stunt in action. The video opens with dozens, probably hundreds, of plastic guitars being kicked about as they’re loaded into a plane. Team members are seen smashing the guitars against each other, breaking them into pieces before the plane takes off.

Eventually, the plane arrives at it’s destination and the controllers are thrown into the molten rock in the volcano’s open dome. They even went to the effort of attaching a camera to a controller so we can watch it fall all the way down during the 2-minute video’s close. Over the footage, we’re told to forget about our plastic controllers and to embrace PowerGig’s stringed guitar.

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The whole time I watched, I couldn’t believe how wasteful and disrespectful this whole stunt was. It must have cost thousands of dollars to put together. Just the guitar controllers alone must have cost a great deal. Then you have two planes flying, with flight crews supporting the flights both on the ground and in the air. Then you have all of the PR people that tagged along for the trip and since the game isn’t being produced in Iceland, I bet they flew there for that, too.

America is still cleaning up from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused by our dependence on fossil fuels. Almost every scientist agrees that our use of fossil fuels is causing global warming, though I suppose there is some disagreement still over what the impact of global warming will be. To use fossil fuels in such a wasteful manner is absolutely disgusting. Yes, I’m sure that volcano spews way more in greenhouse gases than all of the fuel wasted on this spectacle. But just because your dog might shit on your rug doesn’t mean that I have a license to do the same if I come to your house.

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Then, there’s the waste of money that was spent on this. Spending thousands of dollars to perform a stupid stunt in a country that has suffered an economic crash that has sent Iceland begging for economic assistance from other countries is pretty disgusting. When people have lost literally everything they’ve owned, it’s pretty bad form to go around shoving it in their faces how better off you are.

I don’t work in marketing, but I do know a bad marketing ploy when I see it. This spectacle was just terribly wasteful and in very poor taste. In a decade defined by being more consciences of their actions toward the environment, how the team behind PowerGig could have thought this was a good idea boggles my mind. After seeing this, when the new music games drop this fall, my money will go toward Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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