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Thoughts on Mainstream Game Advertising

Posted on 14th Feb 2011 at 14:05 by Paul Goodhead with 27 comments

Paul Goodhead
As a marketing graduate I often find myself idly assesing the marketing strategies that tech companies employ. It’s an industry that's fairly set in its ways - Taiwanese companies tend to think a CG picture of a pretty girl with an ornate sword or huge gun can sell anything, no matter what we in the West say. Meanwhile, here in the West, we can't help but work the touch-feely lifestyle angle - 'this laptop is good because you can help the kids with their homework on it!'

My interest was piqued therefore when I saw Nintendo’s latest Super Mario advert which marks the 25th anniversary of Mario series of games. The advert is initially quite unremarkable, showing men and women of all ages, some of whom are celebrities, talking about the Mario games and their memories of them. So far, so Nintendo; the company has been using softer, more personal adverts targeted at casual and first time gamers for a while now.

What I did find remarkable though was the end of the advert which contained the message the ad was there to convey - ‘Super Mario Brothers, part of the family since 1985’. It’s the first time I’ve seen a computer game use a heritage message, a message that emphasises the history and longevity of a brand or product.


These kinds of messages are more commonly seen in other industries where age and experience are seen as key benefits for the brand. Sainsburys, for example, ran a ‘Trying something new for 140 years’ campaign in 2009 and Ford is planning a campaign for this year based around the fact that it opened its first UK factory 100 years ago.

As a result it’s interesting to see this angle being used in an industry that is generally more about the new and next big thing than the past. It’s clearly an angle that Nintendo feel will work for their demographic though...and I’m tempted to agree with them.

The Wii has found its niche among those who probably wouldn’t call themselves hardcore gamers and consequently most of its user base doesn’t know all that much about games. They are therefore more likely to be swayed by an easy to understand heritage message than by boasts about DX11 effects or the Havok physics engine.

Part of the reason we’ve not seen messages like this before is also because the industry is relatively young. This is one of the first generations where you’ve been able to have old and young people share a conversation about games. It’s also become more socially acceptable to play games as more and more people are gaming these days. It’s not uncommon to see a mum playing a DS on the train and we’ve all seen the news stories about Wiis finding their way into care homes.

It therefore wouldn’t be surprising to see more of this kind of lifestyle approach, broad appeal advert in the future. It'll hopefully pave the way for a more understanding and calm view of computer games from others, which is why I think advertising like this is a good thing - even though we have to listen to Jamie Redknapp sycophantically spouting crap about how he'll 'never forget the first time I beat Bowser'.

27 Comments

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PlayedStation 14th February 2011, 15:23 Quote
While i agree fundamentally with what you're saying in terms of the target audience for the wii, do you think its actually necessary to mention that the mario games are part of their heritage? Surely those who remember mario, simply remember mario, without the need to remind them of how old they are getting, and how the company that invented it is still milking the life out of a franchise 25 years later.

Whats next? Call of Duty... Since 2004
maximus09 14th February 2011, 15:24 Quote
I'm not sure if there is a word for it? You know, from the feeling you get from watching a Wii advert. It's a mixed feeling of embarrassment; for the people on the advert, anger; towards the people on the advert, nausia; hoping there is actually no one in real life like that, shame; because I like some Wii games, depression; because I feel no way near as happy as the people in the advert appear, horrified; at the whiteness of the peoples teeth, envious; at the fact that they are earning money for it, and underwhelmed at how little the advert makes me want to own the game.

Can anyway think of a word for that?
r3loaded 14th February 2011, 15:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by maximus09
Can anyway think of a word for that?
Facepalm.
Sifter3000 14th February 2011, 15:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by maximus09
I hated it

I think that's a great advert. It makes a bold claim - that Mario, a video game character is a cultural institution - in a quiet, unassuming way. You can't imagine them being able to do the same with Sonic, or Lara Croft, can you?

To me, it also seems about as genuine as an ad is going to get (aside from the Jamie Redknapp bit, which Paul is right to point out). But compare how Jonathan Ross comes across in this to how he is when he presents TV. Here he seems much more spontaneous, more personal, less of a show off.

It's also well paced - the way the hold the music back till right at the end, so it's practically playing in your head by the time it arrives - doesn't take itself too seriously (Ross's Jamie Cullum joke), and in the appearance of Patrick Moore aka Games Master, a nice nod to the geeks in the audience.

The one tech company which has used this kind of ad before - and which does sometimes appeal to its heritage, albeit less explicitly than this - is Apple.
Xir 14th February 2011, 16:21 Quote
Mario and Lara Croft are part of our culture, maybe Sonic less so as he's not been that constant.
The generation of my parents know Mario and Lara Croft, even though they never touched one of the games.

What other Game characters can we really say that about?
Batman? (Not a game character really)
steveo_mcg 14th February 2011, 16:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xir

What other Game characters can we really say that about?
Batman? (Not a game character really)

Duke Nukem he's been round since the release of the relentless torrent of sequels, oh hang on....
TCoZ 14th February 2011, 16:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sifter3000
or Lara Croft

She got a street named after her.

I think Nintendo's advertising is great. It doesn't appeal at all to the hardcore gamers, but they aren't the ones Nintendo needs to target, are they?
Lance 14th February 2011, 16:38 Quote
IT'SA ME!!! MARIO!!!

Only computer game my non gamer friends can still beat me at
Da_Rude_Baboon 14th February 2011, 16:38 Quote
Nintendo have been rehashing the same content over and over for 25 years which is why their characters are recognisable.
Cei 14th February 2011, 17:00 Quote
I hate how Nintendo are still advertising the DSi to the public, yet the 3DS is round the corner. Why don't they fess up and actually make 3DS adverts and accept they can't just keep flogging DSi for ever and ever.
dactone 14th February 2011, 18:37 Quote
nintendo is for kids and these adverts do there job.. they manage to get everysingle little kid to ask there mums and dads for a wii or dsi or whatever. so even if i or anybody infact gringes when one comes on it it dosn't matter because nintendo's advertising team are doing there jobs right.
mucgoo 14th February 2011, 18:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cei
I hate how Nintendo are still advertising the DSi to the public, yet the 3DS is round the corner. Why don't they fess up and actually make 3DS adverts and accept they can't just keep flogging DSi for ever and ever.

Sony are still selling the PS2, and remaking the games every 5 years isn't nearly as bad as the sports and cod franchises.
SMIFFYDUDE 14th February 2011, 19:17 Quote
Does anyone remember the Zelda: Links Awakening advert from the early 90s that had Rik Mayall in it. I have no idea how that advert has stuck in my mind for so long, I was only about 8 years old at the time. I wonder if i'll remember the smug f*ckers from the current Nintendo adverts in 18 years time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=su3kMZ7sEm8
tad2008 14th February 2011, 19:26 Quote
I remember that commercial and I would hardly consider ‘Super Mario Brothers, part of the family since 1985’ to be a good message, comes across to me, as have not had any original ideas since 1985 so have been the same ones over and over ever since.
Xtrafresh 14th February 2011, 21:02 Quote
That video is blocked because i don't live in the UK. What kind of ass-backwards company blocks it's own commercials from youtube?
Skiddywinks 14th February 2011, 21:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Da_Rude_Baboon
Nintendo have been rehashing the same content over and over for 25 years which is why their characters are recognisable.
deadsea 15th February 2011, 01:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xtrafresh
That video is blocked because i don't live in the UK. What kind of ass-backwards company blocks it's own commercials from youtube?

Me too. Sheesh.. It's a ad for heaven's sake. If a person with eyes wants to see it, let them. Heck even if a blind guy wants to just listen to the tunes..

Isn't that the whole point of advertising?
sleepygamer 15th February 2011, 05:02 Quote
Here's another Rik Mayall Nintendo advert. :D

FsON9PJRR4g
LordPyrinc 15th February 2011, 06:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xtrafresh
That video is blocked because i don't live in the UK. What kind of ass-backwards company blocks it's own commercials from youtube?

WTF? Censorship on YouTube? When did YouTube get bought out by the UK Gov't? Seriously, this is the first time I've seen this sort of thing on YouTube.
LordPyrinc 15th February 2011, 06:50 Quote
Can someone post a link to this UK only video so the rest of the world can see it?
Xtrafresh 15th February 2011, 07:32 Quote
it's not the UK gvt that bought out youtube. Here in Germany, most videos with any music from the big 4 (UMG, warner, Sony and forgotthelastone) are blocked. Half the links in the videos of awesome thread do not work for this exact reason.

However, in this case, the video has been blocked courtesy of nintendo themselves. Seriously...
pendragon 15th February 2011, 19:32 Quote
"This video contains content from Nintendo UK, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds" ... FAIL
Xir 16th February 2011, 10:46 Quote
Nope, happends all the time.
Especially often on Music-Viedeo's and Movietrailers.

And then it's the Pirates that hurt sales...
StoneyMahoney 16th February 2011, 21:47 Quote
25 years is a long time in this business. Sony and MS are relatively new in the console market compared to Nintendo. Sega tripped up badly with the Saturn and almost went out of business. Atari used to be a massive unstoppable juggernaut back in the day but they've gone to wall quite a few times now and seem to sell more vintage replica t-shirts than games these days.

Fair play to Nintendo, certainly worth celebrating characters that've survived 25 years in a technically demanding and turbulent market and is still innovating and selling in the tens of millions. Reckon Master Chief will be remembered by anyone outside his circle of hard-core fans in 25 years time? The odds are very much against it.

But yeah, Nintendo's current ad campaign does have a certain cringe factor to it. Can't deny that.... makes me chew my fist every time that Wii pub night advert shows.... cheesier than the Leerdamer factory...
BrettMaster5 17th February 2011, 01:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by PlayedStation
While i agree fundamentally with what you're saying in terms of the target audience for the wii, do you think its actually necessary to mention that the mario games are part of their heritage? Surely those who remember mario, simply remember mario, without the need to remind them of how old they are getting, and how the company that invented it is still milking the life out of a franchise 25 years later.

Whats next? Call of Duty... Since 2004


Adding "Mario since 1985" is one of the smartest moves in advertising, especially for a company who is being outclassed by Microsoft and Sony. Most all of the gamers out there now are in their mid 30's to mid-20's. One of the most iconic characters for those gamers is Mario. You know harekening back to a time when games were made for the fun of playing the game, not a time when it was all about being serious and not calling others noobs.
StoneyMahoney 17th February 2011, 15:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrettMaster5
Adding "Mario since 1985" is one of the smartest moves in advertising, especially for a company who is being outclassed by Microsoft and Sony.

Nintendo's consoles may be technically inferior but their bank balance certainly isn't. Have Sony even managed to make a net profit on the PS3 yet?

The consoles may not be great but, as much as "serious" gamers hate them, the games are good and often groundbreaking. Mario 64 was the first 3D platformer. Zelda OOT introduced Z-targeting. Mario Galaxy is the annoying **** in the corner of the console bar bragging to Master Chief and his posse about his dynamic gravity. "Oh, darling, constant acceleration is sooooo last decade...."

Okay, some innovations Nintendo is credited with were done earlier by other people and stolen*ahem*adapted to big franchise games by Shigsy and his crew, but few people can actually name the games/teams who got their first. If no-one can remember it, it didn't happen.
d_stilgar 18th February 2011, 06:02 Quote
Grrr. I'm mad because the youtube video is blocked in the US on copyright garbage. It's an advertisement for goodness sakes. Don't they want to advertise to me?

In response to the article I think it's a really good approach. I particularly like the comment that greater game penetration is good for more normal reactions to games. There are plenty of horribly violent, sex ridden movies, but we stick a rating on them and we move on. But games with an M rating are still attacked when they sex. I think more people playing games means more people will understand the medium and the ratings better.
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