Video game publisher THQ wasn’t one for controversy or taking risks with its PR campaigns, but the publisher wanted to shake it up for the 2011 launch of Homefront, a first-person shooter set in the near future depicting North Korea’s occupation of the Western United States. Pitching the publisher – and beating out six other agencies – Wonacott won the opportunity to create a stunt with “Pyongyang Express: Subsidized good food for a better America.”
The Wonacott Approach
Our idea was to take advantage of the food truck craze hitting Los Angeles with a North Korean BBQ-themed truck, drawing speculation about the connection with THQ/Homefront. With just six weeks before E3, we created the Pyongyang Express food truck, set up a fake website, Facebook page and Twitter, and a consumer information line. We announced the truck and began serving “subsidized” chicken tacos and kimchee quesadillas to Los Angeles foodies, drawing attention from many food bloggers and consumer media that had no idea of the connection to Homefront (the video games press suspected it immediately, which added to our coverage!)
Leading into the game’s March launch, we brought the truck back – along with another in San Francisco – in early 2011. This time around the trucks were clearly co-branded to promote Homefront, complete with the images of a game character waving a burning American flag and outfitted with Xbox 360s for game demos. The trucks made noteworthy appearances at GDC and provided pre-order vouchers for the game with every one of the estimated 180,000 tacos provided. This activity garnered a second round of consumer press coverage, driving awareness and pre-orders beyond that of any prior THQ title.
There’s an old PR adage that there is no such thing as bad press – and Pyongyang Express is the perfect example. With coverage from food bloggers, consumer media and video games media, the press either loved or hated the truck as a marketing tool. But even those who hated it included THQ and Homefront in nearly every article about Pyongyang Express. Over the two stages of the campaign, we locked in more than 500 unique articles and/or significant reposts of coverage, including from ABC News, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Laist, San Francisco Weekly, IGN, Joystiq, Gamasutra, G4, and several food blogs, greatly contributing to THQ breaking a company record with more than 200,000 pre-orders for Homefront across all platforms.