Black Rocket Wins Phantom Gaming Work

LOS ANGELES The Phantom Gaming Service, which is launching in November, has named Black Rocket Euro RSCG its creative agency, the company is set to announce today.

The San Francisco-based Havas shop won the business following a review that included other, undisclosed contenders, said Bob Ellis, director of client services at Black Rocket. “It’s an exciting opportunity for us to bring gaming to the masses,” said Ellis. “All of us have worked on one game title or another in the past, but Phantom expands the world of games beyond the hard-core gamer.”

Phantom, owned by Infinium Labs in Sarasota, Fla., will offer a subscription-based games-on-demand service along with the hardware necessary to play them in one’s living room. Subscribers will be able to choose from a number of titles downloaded via broadband Internet; a computer-based receiver provided with the service will allow the games to be played on a TV set.

Although Black Rocket’s experience in the genre includes work on the Yahoo! Games portal (for which it has handled advertising since 1996), “we’re not a traditional gaming agency,” said Steve Stone, shop co-founder and creative director.

“I think we’ve been successful at launching brands by exploding a truth about them,” he said. “We’re more of a branding agency. So the last thing we’ll do with our creative is make them seem like game ads.” Stone added that the idea would be to sell the games to a mass audience, not just fanatical gamers.

Ellis said he expects the Internet to play a large role in the marketing, but he added that the agency plans an aggressive push using traditional media in the launch phase. He expressed concern that media would be tight because of the closeness of the elections to the service’s Nov. 18 launch date. The company would not disclose the anticipated billings.

“Black Rocket was chosen because of its very unique voice and sensitivity that targets our demo,” said Andrew Schneider, senior vice president of marketing at the client, who will work in New York. “They have a track record with Yahoo! for turning a new brand into a lifestyle essential.”

“We feel we’ve aggregated the right market and expertise to be successful,” said Schneider, whose background includes stints at Sony Pictures Digital, Columbia TriStar Interactive and NBC Network Marketing. Schneider added that he is focused first on the launch, then on building the service for the long term. “Our first priority is building a subscriber base,” he said.

“Since the Phantom system is based on the PC architecture, there will be a huge amount of titles available in the library,” Schneider continued. “But the trend story is about digital distribution of content, that we’re going to bring on-demand gaming to the living room.”

Schneider said Phantom would appeal to what he called the “last gamer”—the older consumer who wants to play a variety of games, new and old, at home with his family. (Having started on an Atari 2600, Schneider said he classifies himself that way.)