UPDATE & WHOOP! Voted one of the top 5 PR stunts of 2012 alongside such company as Red Bull Stratos. Thanks to @copyranter for the inclusion.
I wanted to write in a little more detail about the Resident Evil 6 creative activity which led up to the launch of Wesker & Son on the 26th September. This includes a press pack that horrified everyone, got one phone call from a legal team and made one person sick. Whilst this could have been a PR disaster it was exactly on brief (well maybe not the solicitor bit) which was to provoke reaction and create something people will never forget. You can see my post on Wesker & Son which all the activity was leading towards here.
The overall strategy for the Resident Evil 6, developed with both Adam Merrett at Capcom was to not reveal the link between Wesker & Son, our human butchery, and Resident Evil 6 until a few weeks before the event. A risky strategy when launching one of the biggest video games in the world but one that we all felt was essential when the stunt has such a high shock tactic. Holding your nerve was the game we were going to play… it paid off. The press coverage was global and viral. It also meant a lot to me personally to hear fellow PR professionals praise the stunt, as a freelancer I find it’s so much harder for my work to be validated by my peers but hopefully that is starting to change.
The brief was to appeal to non-gamers so we developed a creative but scientifically correct narrative around the game. The first step was to give a clue to the press that something strange was happening but without giving much away. So how did we do this? Well we killed ourselves.
Specifically we created a series of murder scenes in front of key media houses in London. The models being myself, Adam Merrett, Dan Walsh, Jade Rand (sourced via Amputees in Action) and Carla Connolly (our scientific consultant and technician at St Bart’s Pathology Museum). Working with Carla, and a team of special effects make up artists, we created a range of injuries that could have been obtained if you really were attacked in ‘real life’ by some of the Resident Evil key enemies. In order to justify such extreme images I felt it was important to ensure all the information, except a few artistic touches, was medically and scientifically accurate. We also purposefully used members of the team to unsettle journalists, if they took the bait and came to the event they would then come face to face with people they had only previously seen as a dead body. They were pretty extreme images so have only shown a few here.
An example scenario is that it was decided I died as a result of being attacked by a zombie, so rather than just having bite marks they were numerous scratch marks on my body “consistent with being dragged” and cause of death was blunt force trauma (as a result of being thrown on the floor). An autopsy report was then written for each scenario by Carla who is experienced in writing the real thing having worked in a morgue for many years. These autopsy reports were then sent this out to key media along with the murder scene images themselves and no further explanation. The result was journalists opening a package which featured someone ‘dead’ outside their own office. Cheery uh?! We worked with Nathan Pask in shooting these images, and asked him to use the same camera and flash as crime scene photographers use for the authentic effect. I can imagine it was fairly un-nerving.
These images were also shared on the No Hope Left website (from Sisters & Brothers) which was part of the broader marketing and advertising strategy. It was also fed subtly to other key communities… I purposefully wore Black Milk leggings as there is a strong viral online community around this brand and seeing someone ‘dead’ wearing them would create a reaction for example. For ‘safety’ we also made sure at least one of the wounds on the body was in the shape of a ‘6’ – as well as providing branding it subtly reassured people that these were not real murder scenes.
Clues were given in the autopsy report such as a £ being in front of organ weights and each report stating the sighting of a Wesker & Son van. This layering of fact meant that gamers and hard-core Resident Evil fans would instantly make a link to the game, whilst others would not be able to make any connection, something which was a deliberate part of the strategy. Crucially if people did Google Wesker & Son they would also only get references to the game, Wesker’s Son being one of the big reveals in this title.
The following week Full Fat placed a murder scene board outside the media houses with some more very subtle references. Brilliantly designed by Bruno Vincent it was a sign from the Lanishang Police, Lanishang being a fictional city in the game. With the umbrella for the whole Resident Evil 6 campaign bring No Hope Left, my favorite detail was that the tagline that the police were ‘bringing hope back’.
There was also a number in the board which when called went to a answer machine where callers heard a message that they had reached Wesker & Son. It was at this same time that the Wesker & Son Twitter account became active, more information being revealed in turn for increase in followers.
Two weeks before the actual launch we decided it was time to show our hand so the second stage press packs were delivered containing some fresh ‘human’ meat, red and green ‘herbs’ in reference to the game play, and finally an empty blood sample tube. Some press also got screen prints created in my blood. From Twitter I gathered that those who were not totally grossed out when they got the packages delighted in repulsing their colleagues by purposefully leaving the meat in the fridge. I am not sure if anyone had eaten them but they could have…
Inspired by ventures such as The Pirate Supply Store and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies to create these human meat cuts we simply re-branded a range of tasty fresh meat from leading supermarkets and voila. Exactly the same creative technique used when a block of fudge becomes cubed earwax when it’s in a supply store for monsters for example (we’ve also got kids eating cranberries following and event there by labeling them as scabs). A key point to note is that if you ever re brand packaged food it is essential (I think this is also a legal requirement) to keep the original packaging on the pack, simply stick your stickers over the top.
I also tested the concept of sending out chunks of pig skin, tied together to look like a human limb, with the press night details tattooed onto it. For logistics and gross factor, this never made it into the final pack but it looked amazing and something I would most certainly do again.
Finally a key detail of the press pack, and one reflected in the final Wesker & Son shop, was that we wanted everything to look a bit shit hence the purposefully dreadful graphic design and even worse website. I can’t quite remember the creative process that got me to think of the human butchery, pitching directly to the client who then teamed me up with Full Fat to manage the press side and tell people about the stunt I created.
I do a lot more creative PR & marketing work for brands and agencies than just ‘cake stuff’, the latter simply having a higher ‘Miss Cakehead’ profile in the media as all my other work is client branded obviously. Interested in finding out more about what I do then please drop me a line. Number below (best business card ever) or drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org / @miss_cakehead.