PR stunt for video game Watch Dogs sees bomb squad called to Ninemsn offices in Australia Square

The safe after police had forced it open

The safe after police had forced it open

A PR stunt for a new video game saw the bomb squad called to Ninemsn’s offices yesterday afternoon after a black safe was delivered to the Australia Square offices of the publisher along with a “suspicious” letter which told a reporter to “check your voicemail”.

However, the reporter did not have a voicemail, and when staff  tried to enter a pin code taped to the top of the safe, which was dropped off by a courier but not signed for, it started to beep but did not open, leading to fears it could be an explosive device.

Mi9 staff on the sixth floor of the George Street offices were sent home, and bomb squad officers called in to open the box in the basement of the building. Inside was a copy of new Ubisoft video game Watch Dogs alongside a baseball cap and beanie, and a note saying it was embargoed until 5pm.

Ninemsn editor Hal Crawford told Mumbrella: “This is definitely the other side of the line in terms of what it’s safe for a PR company to send anonymously to a newsroom. The thing was black, heavy and slightly creepy.

The safe contained a copy of the game, a baseball cap and a beanie.

The safe contained a copy of the game, a baseball cap and a beanie.

“We did check with other newsrooms to see if they had received a similar package as we thought it was a PR stunt, but no-one else had. We weren’t panicked at any point, but given there was no note explaining what it was, we had to take sensible precautions.”

Ubisoft has since apologised for the stunt, with a spokesperson for the gaming company saying the delivery of the safe, which had the wrong pin code attached to it, “didn’t go as planned”, after the company was unable to leave a crucial voicemail for the journalist it was addressed to explaining what was happening.

The new game,  has been heavily promoted by the games company with a series of TV adverts and  an online viral video, sees players control a hacker in Chicago who can control things in the environment around him like street lights and starting cars, using a remote control device.

It is not the first time a PR stunt has gone horribly wrong – in December 2011, Advantage SA and Advantage Adelaide sent out goldfish to promote the state, however when journalists received them they were already dead.

More recently, Free Publicity sent out live butterflies to promote the sale of the DVD of TV show Under the Dome.

Alex Hayes and Miranda Ward


  1. Another Agency
    28 May 14
    1:47 pm

  2. This is so fucking stupid it is beyond belief.

  3. I tried
    28 May 14
    1:59 pm

  4. Has anyone ever actually been sent a bomb? Pretty odd assumption

  5. Gong
    28 May 14
    2:09 pm

  6. @I tried: yes.. here is a list.

  7. KTx
    28 May 14
    2:11 pm

  8. Well at the end of the day it received even more publicity than planned so I’d say it was a PR success!

  9. And another agency
    28 May 14
    2:12 pm

  10. +1 to “Another Agency”
    and “I Tried” – Mi9 has ticked off enough people along the way that stranger things could happen ….

  11. concerned citizen
    28 May 14
    2:16 pm

  12. Well they certainly made headlines. Really curious about which agency was involved..

    Just a side note, while i always enjoy reading ‘mubrella’, the subbing is really going downhill lately..

  13. Drew
    28 May 14
    2:18 pm

  14. Let’s analyse the following….
    A) This was a bad PR stunt because it caused fear amongst the recipients and wasted police resources
    B) it did its intended job by generating media coverage. What’s more, the users of this video game (most probably gamers – 18-29 year old males), will get a laugh out of this story because a main stream media outlet has had the wool pulled over their eyes. And in their eyes, this will make this game and the company associated with it very cool.

    What are everyone else’s thoughts….

  15. Jim Macnamara
    28 May 14
    2:20 pm

  16. Can the reporters confirm if this was in fact a PR company or PR department which sent the ‘ticking safe’. If so, they deserve criticism. Or was it a marketing department or advertsing agency trying promoting its products which the media often label ‘PR’. It’s an important point because often promotion we like is labelling good and clever advertising and all the stuff we don’t like is called PR.

  17. Alex Hayes
    28 May 14
    2:22 pm

  18. Hi Jim,

    We’re still waiting to hear back from Ubisoft despite numerous calls. We’ll update the story when we know.

    Either way – isn’t this a PR stunt regardless?


    Alex – editor, Mumbrella

  19. Hugh
    28 May 14
    2:27 pm

  20. I’m with Alex…something intended to get media coverage = PR stunt, regardless of whether it was from a PR dept, agency, inhouse, marketers, whatever.

    A smart “promotion” that is distributed to media becomes a “stunt” because even if the content isn’t some flashmob (*visions of 2001*), the purpose is the same.

  21. Drew
    28 May 14
    2:33 pm

  22. Hi Alex – it’s the difference between an agency doing PR when it’s not their speciality versus an agency who specialises in this field and they fuck up – big difference.

  23. Sherlock Holmes
    28 May 14
    2:36 pm

  24. The article says they entered a pin code and it started to beep… Did they enter an incorrect pin code which they guessed, or was the pin code in the letter? From the article it sounds like they just put in some numbers because the pin was supposed to be in the voicemail…

  25. Alex Hayes
    28 May 14
    2:38 pm

  26. Hi Drew,

    Absolutely – we’re working on getting an answer.

    But for a game like this, is this such bad PR?


  27. Alex Hayes
    28 May 14
    2:40 pm

  28. Hi Sherlock,

    I’ve clarified the wording in the article – but there was a code taped to the top of the box, which when entered didn’t open the box, but set of the beeping.


    Alex – editor, Mumbrella

  29. Demo
    28 May 14
    2:44 pm

  30. Gotta go with Jim here…
    As a young gamer in communications, this is not a fail. It’s a total Win. Would not have cared how the game was delivered if a journal described it to me, but this just turned into an ARG.

  31. Richard
    28 May 14
    2:48 pm

  32. Speaks to the culture of fear cultivated over the last decade and brainwashing of modern media. Oh its beeping due to an invalid pin… its a bomb!!! Seriously??? People today watch far too much hollywood propaganda… real world mail bombs dont look anything like they do on tv and certainly dont come with keypads sounds and heavy duty safe-like material. Grow up folks.

  33. David Hague
    28 May 14
    2:49 pm

  34. In another life and another century (at CBS records) if I had done this I don’t doubt my boss would have been delighted – at the exposure. But sure as hell the staff at radio stations that copped such a promo would probably run me out of town.

    The coppers should charge whoever with wasting police time and causing fear.

  35. Davo
    28 May 14
    3:10 pm

  36. I’d say the bigger fail is thinking ninemsn actually has reporters that generate original copy.

  37. Danon
    28 May 14
    3:23 pm

  38. Is that how you ‘open’ a possible bomb? Good to know.

  39. Client
    28 May 14
    3:48 pm

  40. My teenage kids think the YouTube clip for this game is outstanding and could wait to show me. Telling them about how the old folks at Mi9 overreacted will definitely get a laugh…………..

  41. Aiden Pearce
    28 May 14
    4:21 pm

  42. What twaddle. A video game publisher sent a review copy of a game with a bit of bumpf, in an unusual manner that was actually a bit clever. It’s completely normal in the industry and I’m amazed that NineMSN had such a bizarrely hissy fit over the same thing. Do they pour any booze deliveries down the drain if they didn’t know they were coming – you know, just in case it’s poison?

  43. Beau Ushay
    28 May 14
    4:21 pm

  44. @Drew – worth noting, the average age of a gamer in Australia is 32:

  45. Pdiddy
    28 May 14
    7:05 pm

  46. Looks like it was ninemsn seeking the PR…seriously over react much? It’s clearly a cheap bunnings safe!

  47. mike
    28 May 14
    7:58 pm

  48. A) got their attention B) got coverage C) product named D) mission accomplished.

  49. leaky
    28 May 14
    11:25 pm

  50. Hmm. Happened yesterday, told you today. What could they be trying to divert attention from?

  51. Craig WHITE
    29 May 14
    2:48 am

  52. If this story is real and not fake I must ask this 1 thing. Why were there members of a british military intelligence service that only existed during WW2 on the 6th floor of the George St. Building?

  53. Alex Hayes
    29 May 14
    8:16 am

  54. Hi Craig,

    It definitely is real. This Mi9 is not training resistance fighters in Australia for the Allies, but selling web ads on Ninemsn, Mail Online etc.


    Alex – editor, Mumbrella

  55. youre stupid
    29 May 14
    10:38 am

  56. if the other offices only took less then 5 minutes to open the box, you guys are really stupid

  57. Yellow
    1 Jun 14
    6:44 am

  58. Bombs beep in the movies right?

    What idiots.

  59. sven
    4 Jun 14
    10:14 am

  60. Jim McNamara and Drew are totally right. To any PR professional this sounds like another ad-agency PR fail for which the PR industry will cop unfair criticism. It falls into the same category as the stupid Witchery stunt.

    As for those undergraduates who think it’s clever to ‘pull the wool’ over the eyes of the mainstream media, any PR pro would advise against this tactic because journalists have long memories and will touch you up or ignore you from now on.

    Biting the hand that feeds you (ie making the media look stupid) is PR fail 101.