At San Diego Comic-Con event, EA came up with a promotion that went sadly wrong. It consisted of a contest, where show visitors were invited to "commit acts of lust" with models working at the convention –no matter in which booth. They had to submit proof by posting photos on various social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook.
The idea was to create a viral media storm. The winner (or ultimate sinner?) would enjoy "dinner and a sinful night with two hot girls, a limo service, paparazzi and a chest full of booty." The consolation prize for the five runners- up consisted of a copy of the game, a $240 gift card and assorted game merchandise.
In the disclaimer, EA stated on the official rules page that "...judges reserve the right, in their sole and absolute discretion, to disqualify any Submissions that are inappropriate for any reason, including without limitation, for depicting or mentioning sex, violence, drugs, alcohol and/or inappropriate language." In other words, keep your "acts of lust" clean!
The gaming community was not a bit charmed, to say the least. Th campaign was labeled as tasteless, immature and sexist. The company tried to explain (or to justify) by pointing out that lust is one of the nine sins/Circles of Hell and that participants were invited to take pictures with costumed reps.
"'Commit acts of lust' is simply a tongue-in-cheek way to say take pictures with costumed reps," EA’s danteteam tweets. "Also, a ‘Night of Lust’ means only that the winner will receive a chaperoned VIP night on the town with the Dante's Inferno reps, all expenses paid, as well as other prizes."
The game community was not impressed and tweeting back with viral force.
addtwist tweeted on July 27, 2009: "You should've just gone with Gluttony. Take a picture of the fattest ass at Comicon and get a prize. Or is that too easy?"
It's not the first time a marketing stunt of EA goes awry.
In April 2009, the company was criticized for sending a number of media outlets a Godfather II press kit that included a very real set of brass knuckles, to promote their game based on The Godfather II. The snag: it’s illegal to own brass knuckles in a number of states.
At the E3 trade show in June 2009, EA angered Christian groups and confused journalists covering the event with the use of fake Christian protesters for promotion of its Dante's Inferno.
What are the main marketing mistakes EA made this time?
- They only targeted male gamers
- They made the incorrect assumption that everyone would understand the “tongue in cheek” and “good fun” spirit of the promotion
- They did not properly addressing criticism from their fan base
- They did not learn from past mistakes