Friday, November 05, 2010

Marketing: Activision nails it with 1st 'CoD: Black Ops' commercial (video)

Thank You. It's about gorram frakking time. Someone finally created an ad for a first person shooter (FPS) that doesn't fall face first into the laziest pitfalls of the genre. The semi-animated "realism" of a war torn landscape with a gritty blue, grey, or brown haze. Fade into game footage of a super generic soldier walking, running, crouching with his weapon (nearly *always* male) - and add an explosion involving a tank, helicopter, or building. Finally the gruff voice over or terrible voice acting that might describe the thin plot. Swap a fatigue color here and a landscape there - rinse and repeat for every first person shooter ad nauseum.

It basically offends my sensibilities as a marketing nerd. =P

I understand the "If It Ain't Broke..." risk-averse attitude. After all, from a business perspective, who wants to potentially throw a ton of money down the drain on an untested formula? But it's time to throw down the gauntlet and demand better, less creatively bankrupt ideas. Why? Duh - to sell more games to different target markets.

While initially curious about FPS games, over time I developed a jaded and dismissive attitude towards them because the ads rarely made them seem appealing or interesting. The repetitiveness didn't hold my attention. I'm sure I'm not alone; as a gamer there's only so many Generic White Guy in (Space/The Past/The Future/War Zone) Shooting Things games you can get excited about when they all look the same. So I certainly can't blame the average person for thinking that FPSs have become increasingly unimaginative, boring, and showcase the worst assumptions about gaming (and gamers) rather than effectively communicating why time and time again, year after year, title after title - the genre still reigns.

But this first commercial for Call of Duty: Black Ops hits all the right notes. It takes those same old tropes and freshens it up with a shockingly modern (and accurate) perspective on those who play games under the tagline "There's a soldier in all of us". Of course it's no secret that little boys everywhere have traditionally played cops and robbers or army soldier, but the ad taps into that common experience then hones in on its depth both visually and socially by adding something most game marketing won't sincerely touch with a ten foot pole: gender and ethnic diversity. Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel are a nice and somewhat unexpected celebrity touch, but the professionally dressed businesswoman? The middle aged office workers, scientist, hotel concierge, and fast food worker? Pure inclusive gold my friends, indicative of an understanding that it's time for certain ancient gamer stereotypes to go the way of the dodo.

This is the best commercial for an FPS game I've ever seen. Granted the bar is pretty low, but ultimately the commercial achieved its goal: making me want to buy and play 'Call of Duty: Black Ops' when I had no awareness or interest in it before. Or at least give it a real look. After all, the trailer still follows the same traditional formula - although I will concede that it is much, much prettier.


  1. Probably my favorite part is when the woman with the shotgun pauses to smile. It not only is a fresh look for an old genre, but even just that moment shows you a glimpse of what it feels like for a gamer, fake gun in had, dominating a level with your friends.

    The "FPS" video game view for a few seconds was also a great touch.

    I do not like Call of Duty games. At all. I would buy this game on principle alone. lol

  2. What a great ad! It makes me want to buy the game too :-)

  3. eye_shuh ME TOO. It reminds me of my own joy when I blow people up in TF2. Or set medics on fire. Or defend capture points/intel...

    This is one of the first ads I've seen that's really tried to hone in on *why* we (lots of different people!) play these games, and attempt to explain the feelings we have while doing so in a way that's more inviting.

  4. OK, that is ossum. A really well done trailer.