A few weeks ago, in conversation with a 4th year PR undergraduate, I heard that a trendy consultancy with a reputation for controversial practices had set an assignment for the students.
Nothing unusual in applying studies to practice, but the idea was to come up with a creative approach to promote a new computer game, which has questionable ethics. Its sole purpose was for the players – target market of young children – to crash whilst driving fast cars. The more accidents they had, the more points they gained.
Given that ethics is a core part of the degree curriculum, I wondered what would be the outcome if a student submitted a report to their tutor justifying why they would turn down an invitation to pitch for such business.
Indeed, I would fail anyone studying public relations who didn’t acknowledge the moral issues in such as assignment.
I mention this now as Autoblog reports a study by Peter Fischer at Ludwig-Maximilians University and the Allianz Center for Technology in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. This claims a correlation between playing risk-taking road driving games with poor driving behaviour in real traffic conditions (amongst men but not women apparently). Although I haven’t been able to track down the actual paper, it follows similar recent opinion research commissioned by BSM.
Whether or not there is any cause or effect, it doesn’t strike me as being very responsible to encourage very young children to “win” by crashing a car – nor for young PR students to be expected to come up with ideas for promoting such activities.