5 More Bizarre Publicity Stunts in GamingBy Kyle Mann | October 6, 2011 | Features | 1 comment | Share
We see them everyday: advertisements. You’ve probably been bombarded with hundreds of ads from the moment you woke up this morning; in fact, you’re looking at some right now on this page. Companies spend an estimated $500 billion dollars per year making sure you know the name of their product, and more importantly, want to buy it and tell all your friends about it. Sometimes, there is such a flood of advertising out there that an upstart ad exec somewhere draws on all his years of elite collegiate schooling and says to himself, “Self, we need to do something different. Something wild. Something no other company is doing!” The results of this internal conversation are usually nothing short of disastrous.
But it’s okay, because now we get to laugh at his mistake. In fact, we get to laugh at five mistakes from five different companies, companies which stared down wild and crazy and didn’t bat an eye, companies who have gone where no one was insane enough to go before. We’ve already written up one list of five strange publicity stunts, but there was too much failure for one list. So we did what any high class publication would do. We wrote up another…
5) Actor Assaults Bar with Gun to Promote Splinter Cell
We’re going to opt out of the typical “start-with-the-mild” method of doing these lists, and instead we’re gonna start right with the crazy. It starts out like a well-worn joke: so a guy with bandaged, bloodied hands who happens to be brandishing a gun walks toward a bar, right? Then he starts threatening to actually start shooting some people, causing everyone to dive under their tables, terrified for their lives. Hilarious, right? Downright uproarious, my good man.
Well, someone thought it was a good idea anyway: this is how advertiser Monaco decided to promote Splinter Cell: Conviction during its release in 2010. Of course, the “gunman” was an actor, and the “gun” was a realistic replica that fooled the pubgoers, employees, and, yup–even the police. The cops thought the gun was the sort that kills you, and didn’t get everything sorted out until they showed up with force and got the prop away from the actor. Monaco Corp. said they hired another company to take care of this particular stunt, and weren’t aware that guns would be involved. Alright then. I hear knife attacks go over much better.
4) Zynga Glues Thousands of Pieces of Trash to Sidewalks
Imagine you’re walking down the street in San Francisco, perhaps off to a nice sushi dinner or heading home from a long day at work. You glance down and see a piece of green paper, and instantly you’re thinking of all the things you could buy with a $100 note–er, I mean, you’re working out where the nearest police station is to return the bill to its legal owner. You good citizen you. So, you stoop down to pick it up, but blastitall, it’s stuck. Some trickster has glued fake money to the ground with the sole intention of making you look silly and is undoubtedly hiding around some corner sniggering with his snot-nosed cronies.
Only, it’s not the couthless act of a prepubescent, but rather a coordinated marketing effort by the crime lord of Facebook gaming, Zynga. The bill is in fact an advertisement for Mafia Wars–gotcha! Haha, you should have seen the look on your face when you thought you were getting a $25,000 ticket to paying off that car or house, when instead all you’ve got now is egg on your face and a foul taste in your mouth. Absolutely classic. I always rush to throw money at companies that make me look like a complete buffoon. Not surprisingly, San Francisco held Zynga responsible for the acts, which they considered “illegal” and dubbed “vandalism”. All worth it for the laughs.
3) THQ Encourages Crime to Promote Red Faction
Have you ever walked by someone’s car and let your eyes wander, noticing a video game or DVD you happen to like sitting in the passenger seat? A normal, socially adjusted person’s response is something like, “Ah, that’s nice. I feel a certain affinity with this person I don’t know because he or she appreciates the same entertainment I do.” Then, you move on and think nothing of it. But THQ’s marketing department decided that fans of Red Faction: Guerrilla were a little bit more, shall we say, deranged.
THQ tossed a bunch of copies of Guerrilla into a parked car and left a sledgehammer nearby, stifling laughter as they watched to see who would walk by and carry out a crime to get their hands on a video game. You see, marketers often look at the fictional elements of the product they’re promoting and try to find ways to manifest those in the real world, attempting to cause a spectacle and thereby gain some publicity. The trouble is that video games’ make-believe gameplay elements–such as, you know, smashing cars and causing rampant destruction–don’t often translate well into the real world. At least the marketing campaign was a–well, a smash hit. Yeah.
2) EA Brings Chaos to the Streets of London
Potentially the only entry on this list to start out with a somewhat respectable premise, this stunt saw EA employees taking over a gas station and offering 20,000 pounds of free gas to residents of North London to promote Mercenaries 2. Sounds pretty good in theory, right? I mean, at least you’re not assaulting your potential customers with firearms or asking people to do something illegal. Still, trying to re-create the chaos of people fighting and rioting for fuel in Venezuela might have set off a few red flags. Those of us with the foresight lacking in the video game marketing world can see the potential problems right away.
As you might have expected, the stunt brought traffic to a smashing halt, locking up the normally tranquil neighborhood for hours. Residents were completely blocked into their driveways, and car horns blared through the once-quiet streets. So four hours of neighborhood gridlock, a gas station decorated like a military outpost, and a whole lot of unhappy residents: not the best way to make your company look good in preparation for the launch of a new game. I guess the people who got gas were happy at least, though the police were not: they had to shut the whole operation down to prevent more chaos from breaking out.
1) Sony Poses as White Rapper PSP Fanboys
In a leadup to the holiday season of December of 2006, Sony thought it would be a good idea to build up some buzz for the company’s debut handheld, the PSP. The usual routes–you know, informing potential customers about the features and benefits of the product and let word of mouth carry the news around schoolyards and offices everywhere–weren’t attractive to Sony. So instead, the Japanese hardware company did the next logical thing, and faked a PSP fansite, hoping it would go viral. Only, this wasn’t your typical blog with boring anecdotes of how much its authors and readers liked the product, but an outrageously obvious marketing ploy, complete with its crowning jewel: the “All I Want for Xmas is a PSP” rap. You can view it in its glory below.
As if the marketing attempt weren’t obvious enough, Sony’s marketing agency Zipatoni seemingly didn’t realize that website registrations can be looked up with a few clicks, and several sleuths on the Something Awful forums uncovered the whole ploy in record time. With the entire sham completely unraveled, Sony was forced to fess up on the site itself, admitting the two 30-somethings running the blog pining for Sony’s products were in fact actors. Best of all was the “apology”:
Busted. Nailed. Snagged. As many of you have figured out (maybe our speech was a little too funky fresh???), Peter isn't a real hip-hop maven and this site was actually developed by Sony.
Yes. We figured it out because your speech was a little too funky fresh. That was it.