Nintendo Not Playing Around

Pokemon ‘Franchise’ for Game Boy Gets $14 Mil. Blitz
LOS ANGELES–Nintendo of America is introducing Pokemon for its Game Boy line Sept. 28 with a $14 million advertising and direct marketing effort.
The launch campaign includes a 30-second TV spot from Nintendo’s lead agency, Leo Burnett in Chicago, and an extensive direct marketing push from Kovel Kresser & Partners in Venice, Calif.
“Typically, we launch a video game like a movie: six weeks of support and then you’re done and you move on to the next one,” said George Harrison, vice president of marketing and corporate communications at the Redmond, Wash.-based company. “But Pokemon is a franchise we expect will grow over several years. You have to get a franchise established, and we’re doing that [with the launch campaign].”
The game, which arrives on retail shelves next week, challenges players to locate and train a group of 150 different characters known collectively as the Pokemon. To dramatize the difficulty of catching them, the Burnett spot shows the animated characters climbing into a city bus. They are “captured” when the bus is crushed into a lump of scrap metal that transforms into a Game Boy–the only place they can be found.
A fleet of VW Beetles customized to resemble yellow Pokemon characters embarks on a 10-city tour this month to support the launch. A home video, comic books, trading cards and a Hasbro toy line are also part of the planned Pokemon franchise.
Kovel Kresser recently mailed out a 15-minute video to more than a million Game Boy owners in Nintendo’s database as part of its $1 million-plus direct marketing campaign. Also, an animated, five-day-a-week Pokemon TV show made its debut last week, with 87 percent market clearance, Harrison said.
At $14 million, the marketing budget for Pokemon–with all elements tagged “Gotta catch ’em all”–is the highest of any of Nintendo’s Game Boy titles. Coupled with the $12 million KFC will spend in November on a tie-in promotion, the game is getting more market support than any Nintendo product, according to Harrison. He added that the company sees Pokemon as a long-term product in the U.S., as it has been in Japan.
The Pokemon launch will be Nintendo’s primary but not sole marketing focus before Christmas. On Nov. 23, it will introduce a color-screen Game Boy, and follow that in December with the launch of the newest of the Zelda games for its Nintendo 64 system.
Separately, Nintendo competitor Sony Computer Entertainment America will pump more than $50 million into advertising and cross-promotions during the fourth quarter to support its PlayStation system and related games and products. At least $40 million is expected to be funneled into TV advertising from TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif.
–with Tobi Elkin and Michael McCarthy