The last PR disaster of 2011? Ocean Marketing and the Avenger game controller

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Another spectacular PR failure bubbled up yesterday and it was too good (in a "can't tear my eyes away from the train wreck" kind of way) not to share. It concerns a product called the Avenger Controller which is a device that you fit onto a video game system controller in order to make your gaming experience more precise and/or ergonomic.

Anyway a gentleman named Dave ordered two of the things, one for himself and one to give as a Christmas gift. As December 25th drew near and the Avengers were a no-show, Dave reached out to the company to see what was up...and he ran smack into a walking, talking marketing disaster named Paul Christoforo who works for, or maybe represents himself as, Ocean Marketing.

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity and I guess the makers of the Avenger Controller are going to be able to put this to the test after the experience Dave had. As Dave grew more frustrated with his exchange with Paul Christoforo he decided to loop in some of the gaming blogs out there. Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade fame got involved after he read this line of the exchange (this is from Christoforo, talking to a customer):

"We do value our customers but sometimes we get children like you we just have to put you in the corner with your im [sic] stupid hat on. See you at CES , E3 , Pax East ….? Oh wait you have to ask mom and pa dukes your [sic] not an industry professional and you have no money on [sic] snap you just got told."

PAX East, of course, is the Penny Arcade Expo East. In other words, it's Krahulik's (and partner Jerry Holkins') show. When Krahulik responded that he wouldn't sell the Avenger people a booth if this was the way they treated customers, Christoforo got even more spun-up and start talking in circles.

"We’re not renting a booth at pax east this year , bigger and better shows to be at we got nothing from the show . [...] Were [sic] 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 ?"

He goes on and on, implying that he knows the mayor of Boston and zinging Krahulik with snazzy quips like "he’s a customer unless you’re his boyfriend then you should side with the company not the customer. Be Careful" and finally ends with a threat:

"Your sites [sic] amateur at best my son could put together a better site than yours and you run PAX ?? Wow , Ill [sic] 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 . Thanks again"

Makes you want to run out and purchase an Avenger, no? And as far as I can tell, the customer Dave never did get the product he paid for. I can confirm the Avenger was at PAX East last year, in a small booth, because I stopped in to check it out. It seemed like an interesting device.

Anyway, now Ocean Marketing has roused the beast that is the gaming audience and blogosphere. Kotaku ran an interesting (and funny) piece, Cut Paul "@OceanMarketting @OceanStratagy" Christoforo a Break—He Might Just Have Roid Rage. In it, they claim that an email sent to an @avengercontroller.com address got a response from cstrophic@hotmail.com, an address they claim is used by Christoforo (they cite this tweet as evidence) and which is also used on a discussion board about anabolic steroid use by a user going by the name "TheAngryPimp." The implication being that Christoforo is TheAngryPimp and therefor a user of steroids.

Of course anyone could claim that as their email address so there's no proof here, but this is the kind of ire you bring down on yourself when you get the gaming community riled up. Meanwhile over on Amazon the PS3 version of the Avenger (the first one that comes up in Amazon's search results) has racked up a couple of hundred 1 star reviews all of a sudden.

Penny Arcade eventually posted an update on the situation wherein Christoforo says "I just wanted to apologize for the way our emails progressed 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" which sounds to me like "I'm sorry because you have influence...if you didn't then I wouldn't care." but hey, that's just my interpretation, and apparently Krahulik's as well.

But I want to end on a positive note. The original Avenger controller was invented by a teacher for one of his students. Here's the story. And according to both this blog post and a Kotaku update Ocean Marketing has been fired and the company that makes the Avenger is basically begging for mercy at this point. People who've gotten their hands on the Avenger seem to think it's a good product and it allows some disabled gamers to enjoy their hobby. I guess the question is, how does one buy product without running afoul of this terrible customer service?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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