Nintendo Defaces Iconic Images

A man sitting atop the Berlin Wall has Mario’s head. The Mona Lisa has the face of Zelda.

Various iconic images are infiltrated by Nintendo’s videogame characters in Leo Burnett’s new print and outdoor campaign for the company’s U.S. division. The idea is to fight increasing competition from Microsoft’s Xbox by taking a “subversive” tone, said Jonathan Hoffman, executive creative director at the Publicis Groupe agency.

The $50 million-plus campaign breaks today. Each image is “a childlike poke in the ribs at the adult world,” Hoffman said. The tagline is “Who are you?”—a playful question that hints at the close affinity Nintendo gamers have for the characters, even to the point of living vicariously through them.

The work “addresses a natural connection Nintendo gamers have with our franchises,” said Rob Matthews, director of advertising and promotions at the Seattle-based client.

This is Nintendo’s first umbrella campaign—one not linked to specific titles—since 1994.

Launched in the U.S in 1980, Nintendo is neck and neck with Xbox for the No. 2 position in the category. Both had sales of an estimated $4 billion in 2002. Sony’s PlayStation is the leader, with estimated sales of $7 billion in 2002.