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


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