It hasn’t been a great week for Netflix.

Hot on the heels of a vehicular accident directly related to an online meme commemorative of Netflix’s lukewarm new release Bird Box, one which had the streaming giant’s PR team tweeting: “Can’t believe I have to say this, but: [don’t] end up in the hospital due to memes,” a new PR threat has emerged. Netflix is now investigating whether or not actual footage of a deadly 2013 event has snuck its way into the film after it was discovered in another production.

An early scene in the film includes a newscast about a mysterious phenomenon leading to mass suicides; in reality, the reel appears to show real footage of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, one of the worst rail incidents in Canada’s history, occurring after a train transporting crude oil derailed and exploded, leaving 47 people dead.

Footage from the incident was recently discovered in an episode of science fiction series Travelers, produced by Canada-based Peacock Alley Entertainment. The president of the production company, Carrie Mudd, says the imagery was sourced from stock footage supplier Pond5, whose spokesperson said the footage “was taken out of context and used in entertainment programming.”

Pond5 has since apologised for the blunder, and Mudd has emphasised that Peacock Alley Entertainment had “no intention to dishonour the tragic events of 2013.” Even so, the damage seems to have been done, made worse by the fact that this isn’t the first time Netflix has been accused of allowing such an oversight.

Earlier this month, the streaming giant was accused of using footage from another fatal train crash that occurred in Belgium in 2010 in its film Death Note.

Bird Box has certainly been the source of some… unique… PR hurdles for Netflix in the wake of its release, not the least of which include the absurd “Bird Box challenge” involving the wearing of blindfolds while wandering around and, even worse, operating a vehicle.

The challenge gained further traction when well-known YouTuber Jake Paul dashed through traffic wearing a blindfold in a stunt that was, of course, uploaded to the platform. Netflix has since called for internet users to refrain from such antics, declaring on Twitter:

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

-5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian


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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.