A food truck called the Pyongyang Express is prowling the streets of Los Angeles, selling cheap food and promoting the idea that North Korea wants to “build a better America.”

Absurd? Yes. It’s a publicity stunt. But a stealth publicity stunt.

The truck has no real connection to North Korea. It’s an advertising vehicle – literally – for an upcoming title from Agoura Hills video game publisher THQ Inc. Nevertheless, there’s no mention of THQ or the game on the truck.

The game, “Homefront,” allows players to participate in a resistance movement that’s formed to fight the fictional occupation of the western United States by North Korean communists.

Covered in red stars, the Pyongyang Express sells food for the proletariat, including Korean tacos for $1, less than half the price of competing trucks.

Most customers just see the truck as a source of cheap lunch. Only a few video game experts make the connection with “Homefront.”

“We’re not concerned about consumers knowing at this point because the game doesn’t ship for six months,” said Tyrone Miller, senior manager of public relations at THQ. “As the campaign proceeds, people will put things together and have an ah-hah moment.”

The campaign also includes direct mail, billboards, the Internet and events. For example, at the Electronics Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles on June 15, about 100 bogus North Korean soldiers marched past Staples Center.

Agencies involved in the truck campaign include Wonacott Communications LLC in West Los Angeles and DKC in New York.

Hirshberg Gets Gamey

Powerhouse ad agency Deutsch LA will go through a transition period with the departure of Eric Hirshberg, the longtime co-chief executive and main creative force.

Hirshberg has announced he will leave the agency to become chief executive at Activision Publishing, a division of Activision Blizzard Inc. in Santa Monica.

In his new job, Hirshberg will oversee product development and consumer marketing for Activision games.

Mike Sheldon, who has worked as co-chief executive alongside Hirshberg for 13 years, said his friend is leaving at a growth period. The agency has hired 140 people in the last six months.

“We’re going to have a tough couple of months, then you’ll see a new, even better agency come out of this,” Sheldon said in an e-mail to the Business Journal. “He’s taking on an enormous assignment and I know he’ll be as spectacular there as he was here.”

Hirshberg’s main qualification for the Activision job is his experience at Deutsch with the Sony PlayStation 3 account. He also worked on ads for General Motors, DirecTV and UnitedHealth.

Marketwire Acquisition

Marketwire, an El Segundo distributor of Internet press releases, has purchased Sysomos, a Toronto-based company that monitors and measures messages on blogs and social media. The acquisition is part of Marketwire’s strategy of extending its business into the booming social networking field.

Three-year-old Sysomos has software that allows Marketwire clients – mostly PR agencies or large corporations – to monitor activity in billions of online discussions. The program scans blogs, social networks, and forums and presents a statistical profile of the tone and subject matter of what’s being said about a company.

Marketwire, with 11,000 clients worldwide, is majority owned by Omers Private Equity in Toronto.

Imforza Spins Off

El Segundo-based online marketing agency Imforza has spun itself off from parent company Design People Inc.

Imforza started out in 2006 providing Internet and e-mail ad services to clients of Design People, a website design company with mostly real estate clients. However, Imforza Chief Executive Vinny La Barbera realized in 2009 that the technology and strategies the company had developed would work for companies outside of the real estate industry, so he decided to buy Imforza and expand its client base.

Agencies & Accounts

JS2 Communications in the Melrose district has landed new client PreferDine, an online platform to connect consumers with high-end restaurants and wineries. JS2 handled the July 15 launch of the service in Los Angeles. Local eateries signed up for the service include Melisse, Fig, Mako and Pearl Dragon. … MPRm Public Relations on the Miracle Mile is the new agency handling corporate communications for RMG Networks, a San Francisco-based video ad company. … Debbie Carter is the new general manager at the L.A. office of Petry Television, an advertising representative of TV stations. She will oversee national sales efforts on behalf of Petry clients. … RFPR, a marketing and PR firm, has landed the Independent Television Festival as a client. Carl Larsen, RFPR vice president of publicity, will handle the account. The festival takes place July 30 to Aug. 5 in Los Angeles. … Blitz Agency, a Santa Monica interactive Web design firm, has hired Tim Richards as vice president of user experience. Richards was formerly a vice president at digital agency Razorfish, where he worked on accounts for Activision, Sony, Disney and DirecTV. … Peg Jackson, author of five books on risk management and business planning, has hired PR firm Blaine Group in Beverly Hills to place her articles on websites. … Jay Silverman Productions in Hollywood has just released a new campaign promoting Merillat kitchen cabinets via TV, Internet and print.

Staff reporter Joel Russell can be reached at jrussell@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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