After being verbally abusive to a customer, the man behind a new controller accessory threatened Gabe of Penny Arcade. Guess how well that went over.
The Avenger controller accessory was supposed to ship earlier this month, supposedly in time for those who'd pre-ordered the device to be using it by Christmas. But then it was delayed without notification. A concerned customer contacted the folks behind the accessory, asking for some updates, and that's when the trouble began.
The customer, Dave, initially ordered two PS3 Avengers back at the beginning of November. He happily paid the full price for both of them, assuming he'd have one to use and one to give out as a Christmas present. However, the "early December" ship date was missed and he asked for an update on December 16th. Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing responded to the inquiry with a nebulous message "Dec 17".
Things only went downhill from there. The follow-up emails between the two reveal an increasingly shady side of Christoforo, as well as the man's inability to grasp the English language. He becomes increasingly defensive - as well as verbally abusive - demonstrating terrible customer service, addressing Dave as "Dan" and accusing him of being a penniless teenager who doesn't understand the way the videogame industry works.
At this point, Dave emailed several news groups, as well as Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade, who decided to get involved. In one of his venomous (and borderline illegible) emails to Dave, Christoforo mentioned that the controller had been at PAX East, which caught Krahulik's attention, so he decided to get involved with the exchange:
From: Mike Krahulik
To: Dave, Ocean Marketing
Dec 26, 2011 at 8:45 PM
Holy shit this is unbelievable. Dave, if this guy has a booth at Pax east we will cancel it.
Christoforo, naturally, responded with class and dignity, sounding like a mature adult (and not at all like a forum troll):
From: Ocean Marketing
To: Mike Krahulik
Dec 26, 2011 at 8:54 PM
We're not renting a booth at pax east this year , bigger and better shows to be at we got nothing from the show . Oh so you know this guy has sold over 500 thousand dollars of product in Dec and is my main distribution arm landing us in GameStop , fry's , Myers , Best buy , Activision , MLG , play N trade and a lot more . Were in 6 countries and you're not going to take my money for a booth that's a crock I can guarantee I'll get a booth if I want one money buys a lot and connections go even further. He's a native Bostonian from Little Italy . Who are you again ?
After this, Christoforo kept shoveling with both hands, even going so far as to threaten Krahulik, saying, "Ill put my marketing team on a smear campaign of you and your site and your emails , I have about 125 dedicated people to run PR , Blogs , Articles , Videos you have no clue who I am ."
You can read the entire exchange over at Penny Arcade, but the bottom line is that Christoforo clearly had no idea who Krahulik is or how big his influence is. From the sound of things, the PAX shows probably aren't the only ones that will be booting Ocean Marketing.
This isn't where the story ends, though. Examiner points out that Christoforo changed his twitter handle from @oceanmarketting (which is now run by someone dedicated to good causes and indie games) to @oceanstratagy in wake of the bad press. He even made a tweet that called Scott Lowe of IGN a "douchebag" before deleting it (though not before someone took a screenshot). It's been revealed that the Ocean Marketing blog plagiarized and posted articles from Forbes and BizReport as original pieces. Finally: Even though the Amazon page for the 360 version shows an average rating of two stars, the five star reviews are generally believed to be fakes, written by the same person.
We see stories about idiotic PR moves a few times each year, but this one is one of the most gob-smacking things I've ever written about. Somehow, I don't expect Mr. Christoforo will be involved in either the videogame or PR industries for too much longer.
UPDATE: Just after this story went live, Kotaku posted a new update on the story. It turns out that Christoforo was masquerading as Brandon Leidel of The Hand Media, pretending to be the man when writer Joel Johnston tried to clarify some facts in the story. The real Leidel contacted Kotaku, explaining that his company is no longer associated with the Avenger because "we fired N-Control as a client about 8 months ago due to constant shipping delays (which we had to deal with) and their association with Paul Cristoforo who is a street thug masquerading as a self proclaimed 'Marketing Professional.'"
UPDATE #3: Penny Arcade has another update. Christoforo has apologized for his actions, though he seems more sorry that he got caught than for what he actually did. Krahulik isn't terribly sympathetic. Admittedly, neither am I.
UPDATE #4: Eli Schwartz of N-Control has been saddled with the unenviable task of scrambling to do damage control. According to his Twitter account, Christoforo (and Ocean Marketing) are no longer employed by N-Control). He emailed me with the following statement:
We apologize for our poor representation from Ocean Marketing. We wanted to give Paul a chance. He was rough around the edges, but he had drive and enthusiasm.
However his behavior was unprovoked, unnecessary, and unforgivable. We are no longer represented by Ocean Marketing.