TBWA\C\D’s PS2 Work Looks to Wider Target

LOS ANGELES Sony Computer Entertainment America is broadening the appeal of its communications beyond the core gamer for the holiday ad push underway, said Andrew House, executive vice president. The last two of 13 TV spots by Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\Day break tomorrow.

“One of our challenges was working our way through the [product] lifecycle,” said House, anticipating the release of the PlayStation Portable (PSP) next March. “We’re trying to reach out to a diverse audience, to simultaneously connect with the core audience, making sure they remain enthusiastic, while moving into the mass-market stage that includes gift givers such as parents.”

A barrage of commercials, produced under creative director Jerry Gentile at Chiat’s Playa del Rey, Calif., office, shows this subtle emphasis. Spots for Jak 3 emphasize comic repartee between Jak and Dakster and movie references. An ATV Offroad Fury 3 spot starts as a parody of a car-care product before an ATV crashes on the hood. Four spots for Ratchet & Clank were given a more whimsical direction by a real-world demonstration of the fictitious Sheepinator gun, accidentally turning suburban moms into ewes. All three campaigns were slightly edgier and aimed more at core gamers last year .

Those campaigns were followed in the last two weeks by cinematic spots for the new, first-person shooter Killzone. In one (“Flag”), a scratchy WW II era recording of “The Star Spangled Banner” leads to the unfurling of a fictitious flag, suggesting ongoing resistance in a futuristic war zone. Another (“Poster”) uses mostly game battle footage and a British-accented rallying cry. Both spots employ a shot of the hardware form factor and the copy, “The new, slimmer, more capable PS2.”

A corresponding print campaign for the slimmer chassis, in which the PS2’s width is compared to an election button, tennis balls and a snow globe, broke in December periodicals.

Eyetoy spots breaking tomorrow work as a reverse-concept pair. One shows a teenager interrupted by a phone call (“Knockdown”). A fatal blow to his avatar within the game sends the teen reeling across his living room. In “Trash,” the same teen is asked by his mother to take out the garbage. In a split-screen, the teen’s chore is mirrored dutifully by his proxy within the game. The voiceover tag for both is “Become one with the game. Eyetoy Antigrav, where your whole body is the controller.”

House said successful titles now command a 10-year life cycle, so that the coming of PSP will not make the PS2 obsolete. “The generation of the original PS games was sophisticated gamers who’d grown up, but not grown away from games,” House said. “PS2 made the leap from dedicated gaming machine to broader entertainment device that could be at the center of the revolution.” House said he expects the PSP to create another such revolution.

House said game footage is still crucial to selling titles. “Core gamers are very marketing savvy,” he said. “They are happy to get a message in a relevant and entertaining way. But their attitude is, ‘If you are proud of the game, show me.’ It’s taken as evidence of honesty.”

House acknowledged that this tends to lock game ads into a certain formula, not unlike movie trailers. “But unlike movies, games can be rented before they’re purchased,” House added. “So it is a necessity to show the footage to connect with gamers.”

Foster City, Calif.-based SCEA spent $100 million advertising in 2003, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.