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The Breaking Bad Bait & Switch

If you’ve followed PR/PR’s blog for any length in time, you’re well aware of my affinity for Breaking Bad. In my humble opinion it’s one of the greatest television shows ever created—a deep character study about what someone will do to provide for their family, and the personality changes that can take place once his motivations become skewed. It was a masterful work, so naturally fans have been clamoring for more since the credits rolled on the series finale six years ago.

So it made perfect sense that alarm bells would go off when Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul began tweeting identical photos with the cryptic caption, “Soon.” The first photo, a couple of mules in a desert setting on grayscale, immediately started the internet chatter that a movie or another spin-off a la Better Call Saul was in the works.

The second depicted Cranston and Paul crossing a creek, yet again with a desert backdrop.

If you’re unfamiliar with Breaking Bad, it follows Cranston and Paul (as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, respectively) as they rise through the seedy underworld of methamphetamine in New Mexico. So you have a photo of mules and the pair in an arid-looking landscape, posted simultaneously on both stars’ social media accounts.

You can see where the mental math came to the calculation that a new Breaking Bad project was in the works.

But then came the third photo, one showing each sipping a drink, complete with the caption, “A collaboration so smooth you can taste it,” and an emoji of a highball glass.

That’s when many fans realized they’d been duped. Instead of some new Breaking Bad content, they were getting an alcoholic beverage collaboration between Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. Mezcal, to be exact.

The online outrage was swift, with a large contingent of people expressing their displeasure at seemingly falling for a bait-and-switch. The social media stunt had all the makings of a PR campaign, but with a television series as pivotal and important as Breaking Bad, many were content operating under willful ignorance that something bigger was in the works.

But their hearts were broken with the official announcement, and as it stands right now there’s no Walter White or Jesse Pinkman on the horizon. It will be interesting to see if their new Mezcal brand will succeed, considering a large chunk of their potential customers are now frustrated and angry fans.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul certainly created a buzz with their social media trolling—and generated awareness of their new brand in the process. We’ll see if they can convert angry fans into willing consumers.

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