The goal for marketing types in the Internet age is a "viral" ad campaign. You pull off some publicity stunt, there's tons of coverage on the internet, you wind up with millions of eyeballs for virtually no cost.
But viral campaigns are all about pushing the envelope. You have to shock people to get their attention, and this is where the potential for disaster lies.
Awful, hilarious disaster.
Promoting a Video Game With the Threat of Murder
Like most of today's best video games, Splinter Cell is all about the gratuitous violence. While a reasonable marketing team would use half naked ladies and bitchin' guitar licks to promote their ultra-violent entertainment, the geniuses behind Splinter Cell decided nothing short of an act of terror would do the trick.
"We were going to get a billboard, but then we remembered Alan Rickman's brilliant viral marketing campaign in Die Hard."
So in April, 2010, Splinter Cell hired an actor to wear heavily bandaged hands (like a character from the game, apparently) and wave a fake gun at strangers in a New Zealand bar, and they did it without the obligatory "THIS IS A MARKETING STUNT" sign usually recommended for such endeavors. And we should note that the gun didn't look fake, at all.
This was not the gun.
Shockingly, the reaction from the bar patrons was not to go out and buy Splinter Cell. Instead, someone just ruined everything and yelled, "He's got a gun!" Things just went to hell from there.
"Excuse us, have you heard about the newest Mario game?"