Current Activision CEO, Eric Hirshberg, gave an interesting speech at Advertising Age’s Creativity and Technology event during CES this year, one that focused on the company’s approach when dealing with the massive Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 leak that hit the web in a big way back on May 13th, 2011.
He talked about fans of the franchise, and how they had every right to enjoy the information and discuss it via the multitude of online social outlets that propigate the web today. He went on to say that he implored his team to embrace the leak and live on, to view it as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. Eric called a meeting within Activision to answer one simple question, “if this leak had never happened, we would not have been able to do what?” The answer in short, revolved around the concept of welcoming “transparency” and being “straight with people.” He often used the term “lean into it,” telling his team to embrace the fire, to embrace the discussion. To ask themselves why they would normally rejoice at the notion of millions of fans discussing their game, but with this instance found themselves cringing at it simply because they did not control the moment and means which it was revealed.
Ultimately, Eric and his team decided to use the social media avenues, he described as a “blessing,” to reach out to their fanbase, admit the leak was not something they wanted to see happen, and release a teaser trailer they had planned to debut on television 4 weeks later, via the internet at that very moment instead. Traditional means such as radio and television were replaced with Facebook and Twitter.
While I think Eric’s candor and willingness to think outside the box is refreshing to say the least, some may not fully understand the lesson to be learned here for the next company that finds themselves in the same unfortunate situation. Is he suggesting they offer up their shirt when caught with their pants down? Is he asking that they openly embrace defeat, by changing their outlook? Does he want them to use Jedi mind tricks to shrink what most would see as a massive problem into something that could easily be tucked into the category of “don’t sweat the small stuff?”
The comic in me compares this to an individual realizing that there’s a burgler in their home as they head down to the fridge for a midnight snack, and instead of calling 911 (or shooting him between the eyes) they ask him if he needs a hand carrying their 60′ flat screen out the front door. Why? Because they’d rather get back to eating left over chicken wings in their bunny slippers.
On one level, yes, they didn’t allow the effort of another individual to ruin their “Feng shui” as they approached a highly anticipated product launch, but on the other, they broke away from their rollout strategy, essentially waving what some will deem a white flag to an internet community that, while great in a many ways, is often guilty of harboring criminals for their own informational gain.
Eric and his team had a choice. The freedom to decide whether or not they were going to let a situation that was clearly out of their control steer them off course. In the end, they found a way to rise above it all despite the disappointment they undoubtedly felt at the time of the leak.
Years ago, a friend of mine, who now runs one of the biggest movie blogs on the web, was approached by (let’s call him a thief) who had lifted information off the set of a blockbuster movie prior to it’s release. He approached my friend and asked him if he would be interested in purchasing said information for publication on his site. My friend said he would think about and call him back. Instead he contacted the studio and arranged a sting operation of sorts, after convincing the individual that he was interested in making the deal. Police apprehended him and my friend was later rewarded with an exclusive director sit down session by the studio for doing what he believed to be the right thing.
On a day where many sites, including RipTen, are making black out tributes in recognition of SOPA and PIPA protests, Eric’s calm approach to his company’s dillema and my friend’s clear conscience decision regarding his own, are prime “reaction” and “action” examples pertaining to both the “outcome” and “opportunity” of unlawful information distribution and the internet freedom we all stand to possibly lose.
It’s my belief that the majority of the problem lies in the choices we make, not in our right to make them. Regardless of which side of the information we find ourselves on, we should always strive to make sound decisions that we’re not afraid to stand behind, and fight to preserve our rights, not because we hope to someday abuse them, but because we truly believe we’ve earned them.