The Human Butchery

  • Emma Thomas
"Resident Evil 6 'Human Butcher's Shop' PR Stunt Might Be The Grimmest Ever"
Huffington Post

The brief was to appeal to non-gamers so we developed a creative but scientifically correct narrative around the game.

The overall creative strategy for the Resident Evil 6 launch led by the decision not reveal the link between Wesker & Son and the game until a few weeks before the event. A risky strategy when launching one of the biggest video games in the world but one that was essential just to the high shock tactic of the stunt. It paid off; the press coverage was global and viral.

The first step in the campaign was to give a clue to the press that something strange was happening but without giving much away. We did this by killing ourselves. Specifically we created a series of murder scenes in front of key media houses in London. Working with a team of special effects make up artists, the corpses had range of injuries that would 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 core PR and creative 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!!!

An example I personally ‘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 a medically trained professional, 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 that featured someone ‘dead’ outside their own office. We worked with photographer Nathan Pask in shooting these images, and asked him to use the same camera and flash as crime scene photographer’s use for the authentic effect.

These images were also shared on the No Hope Left website (from Sisters & Brothers) which was part of the broader marketing and advertising strategy for the game and were also fed subtly to other key communities… For example 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 of what was to come 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 that 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 the PR team - Full Fat - placed a police information murder scene board outside the same media houses with some more very subtle references. Of course 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 an 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.

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 rubbish like a high street butchers hence the purposefully dreadful graphic design and even worse website.

Finally the butcher shop opening in Smithfield’s Meat Market, given Londoners the chance to come and buy human meat, the press night offering not only a preview of the meat on offer but also a pop up morgue.