Instant Fame for All the Wrong Reasons

It all started with a question over a simple game accessory. Now, the story has propelled one PR firm into a spotlight so fast, it has been extremely hard to keep track of all the updates. It should be a PR firms dream come true, but it has become exactly the opposite.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Public Relations (PR) is always a tricky business. One wrong move or one wrong comment and it can take an otherwise decent campaign to promote something straight in to catastrophe. It’s not hard to imagine this type of business as walking a tightrope between not losing the audience and pushing the envelope.

If you’ve followed the Ocean Marketing saga, you are probably aware of just how off the rails PR can go – and this particular story goes well in to the realm of absolute absurdity. On December 16, a customer known as Dave, contacted Ocean Marketing to find out what happened to a pre-order of a gaming accessory made on November 3. The e-mail was straight forward enough given that it was merely a question on an update on when the product was going to arrive. Not that unreasonable of a question which probably should have been relatively straight forward to answer.

After a few exchanges on verifying which order Ocean Marketing merely commented on the whereabouts of the shipment. The website was updated during this time to lower the price of ordering. Naturally, Dave asked whether or not it would be better to cancel the pre-order and just order the version with the discount. Ocean Marketing replied that this would not be allowed, but took it a step further and threatened to sell his pre-oder on eBay for 150$. The customer was not amused by this and became frustrated with this and asked to cancel his pre-order.

Usually, something like this get’s dropped, but the chain e-mail was forwarded to Penny-Arcade. In response, Ocean Marketing shot back at the customer, saying things like, “Grow up you look like a complete child bro.”, “people have inquired but you’re the douchiest of them all”, “You just got told [explitive]”, and infamously saying, “Son Im 38 I wwebsite as on the internet” (the rest of the comment would be Not Safe for Work) while saying that the orders are actually still in China.

Mike Krahulik, at this point, stepped in and threatened to cancel his booth at Pax east. Ocean Marketing responded to Krahulik saying that he had “bigger and better shows to be at” as well as saying how he has connections to big name gaming companies. He even went further by sending this veiled threat in the e-mail, “money buys a lot and connections go even further. He’s a native Bostonian from Little Italy”

Krahulik replied by essentially explaining that he does PAX east. Ocean Marketing responded by saying how he’s got big connections and Krahulik didn’t know who he was messing with. After complaining about the original customer in question, he say, “he’s a customer unless you’re his boyfriend then you should side with the company not the customer. Be Careful ”

After a few more testy exchanges, the chain ended with Ocean Marketing saying, “I have about 125 dedicated people to run PR , Blogs , Articles , Videos you have no clue who I am . Thanks again”

Sometime after the exchange, the e-mail chain was posted to Penny Arcade (Warning: NSFW language). It turns out, the person behind Ocean Marketing making those e-mails was the president Paul Christoforo.

You’d think that after this got the spotlight, Christoforo might realize that this has gone well in to the realm of the absurd and figure out how to dig himself back out of the hole he created. Evidently, that wasn’t the case.

Scott Lowe, Executive Editor of IGNTech caught wind of this story and sent Christoforo a Tweet, saying, “Please refrain from referring to me or IGN as support for you, your company or your clients. You do not have it.”

In response, Christoforo replied, “Your a douchebag anyway Scott we sent you how many units for review , How many conversations You were the unprofessional one”

In a move that should surprise no one, N-Control fired Christoforo as a result of the events that unfolded.

The story did not end there.

The story didn’t just hit the web in some small way, it pretty much exploded in comparison to how small this story originally was. It not only sparked an parody video (NSFW language) and posted on numerous social news sites. On thread on Fark TechDirt for the Reddit link) Even Geico got in on the action by tweeting, “Great savings, outstanding service, and a proven 75-year track record. And we will never wwebsite as on the Internet.”

With all of this happening, even Christoforo, as it turns out, has his limits. An update was posted to Penny Arcade where Cristoforo was begging for forgiveness by saying things like “You have the power Mike Please make it stop” and “I didn’t know how big your site was and I really didn’t believe you ran Pax , So for what’s its worth I am very sorry.”

The apology was apparently unconvincing as Gabe comments, “I think there is a big difference between being sorry and being sorry you got caught. I have a real problem with bullies. I spent my childhood moving from school to school and I got made fun of everyplace I landed. I feel like Paul is a bully and maybe that’s why I have no sympathy here. Someday every bully meets and even bigger bully and maybe that’s me in this case. It’s the same thing that happened with Jack Thompson. It might not always make the most business sense and it is a policy that has caused us some legal problems, but I really don’t give a shit about that. When these assholes threaten me or Penny Arcade I just laugh. I will personally burn everything I’ve made to the fucking ground if I think I can catch them in the flames.”

With such an incredible storm being sparked over something so little as a video game accessory, it’s hilariously astonishingly outrageous that it has escalated as much as it has. With the internet responding in almost unanimous fashion against him, the only thing impressive about Christoforo is how much hate he managed to direct towards himself in such a short period of time.

I think the reason why this story has ultimately exploded as much as it has is simply the attributes people see in Christoforo. While comparing him to the school yard bully is a popular way of describing him, there are so many other ways people can compare Christoforo to that one annoying drive-you-up-the-wall person they know in their lives. Whether it happens to be that arrogant boss that almost everyone in the workforce loathes, or the guy that gets a promotion he so clearly does not deserve or just that person you know through someone else who is so egotistical that he can’t see past his own nose, many people see these attributes in Christoforo as evident in the discussions around the internet.

Everyone dreams that this one individual in their lives that drives them oh so crazy would eventually slip up and mess with the wrong person – that mouth that gets the owner in so much trouble that years of karma comes back to haunt him. I think a lot of people got a lot of that satisfaction when they saw the complete and total self-destruction of Cristoforo in the Ocean Marketing saga.

I think this is a big part on why this story really seemed to strike a nerve with so many people in such a short period of time. I don’t think of myself as an evil person, but I have gotten a sort of satisfaction of seeing someone who exhibited several different flavors of assholery get what he deserves.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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