Twentieth Century Fox has apologized for creating fake news sites as part of the digital marketing campaign for the new 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 digital campaign was inappropriate on every level, especially given the trust we work to build every day with our consumers," a studio spokesperson said Thursday afternoon in a statement.
"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," the statement continued.
A elaborate, yet fictitious, news story claiming that President Donald Trump met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at a remote wellness center in the Swiss Alps prior to the November 2016 U.S. presidential election was one of the stories appearing on a handful of fake websites that popped up earlier this week, calling themselves The Sacramento Dispatch, The Houston Leader, the NY Morning Post and The Salt Lake City Guardian.
The websites also included faux weather updates, and other news stories, including at least one article about a made-up illness. One post on a site even went so far as to identify "Trump Depression Disorder" as a real disease, calling for readers to raise awareness for the sickness by tweeting (using #cureforwellness).
A Cure for Wellness, from New Regency and Fox, opens Friday. The psychological horror thriller, directed by Gore Verbinski, is set in a mysterious center in the Alps and follows a young executive who travels there in search of his company's CEO.
When some on Twitter took issue with the fake stories, Regency and Fox initially defended the digital campaign in a statement issued Monday.
"A Cure for Wellness is a movie about a 'fake' cure that makes people sicker. 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," the earlier statement said. "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.'"
Nevertheless, the handful of bogus news sites soon began redirecting to the movie's official website.
Fox certainly isn't the first film, or television, studio to create websites as part of a marketing stunt or promotional campaign.