Activision’s CCO on Why Video Games are Changing

Last week, Activision’s seventh installment in its first-person shooter franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops, broke the record of its predecessor, Modern Warfare 2, selling more than 5 million copies and bringing in $360 million within 24 hours of its release. Brad Jakeman, CCO, evp of Activision Publishing, discusses the blockbuster release, the brand’s relationship with Jeep, and why video games are no longer just about the core gamer.

AdweekMedia: You broke sales records with Black Ops. What do you attribute to its success?
Brad Jakeman: We are seeing a dramatic transformation in the video game industry where the entire category is being legitimized as mass-market entertainment. It’s the perfect storm. It’s an amazingly innovative game, coupled with a marketing and advertising strategy that addresses the reality of our consumer base and the masses. It’s a fantastic product.

This franchise has such a fervent fan base, do you need to advertise at all?
[Advertising] the game as a playful way to experience the game and underscore the fact that it is a game that can be enjoyed first by the core but also the more casual consumer.

What’s the advertising strategy for reaching both those audiences?
The first segment is our core Call of Duty audience. We need to engage them early, provide them with assets. We get them excited about the game. Then in broadcast media we continue the trajectory into pop culture so it really becomes a legitimate mass market.

How do you do that?
We have to be in places where other pop culture brands are, whether it’s integration with the Jimmy Kimmel show or partnering with Jeep for a Black Ops vehicle.

What’s the partnership adding to the marketing message?
There is an authenticity and pop culture value to the Jeep brand, and our audience of males, 18 and above, is very consistent with the people who buy a Jeep. It helped us broaden our audience beyond the core gamer. It also allowed us to bring the digital virtual world together with the real world—something that you can touch and feel that is Call of Duty. It deepens our relationship with our consumer.

How did having a former ad exec as CEO, Eric Hirshberg, impact the strategy for the launch?
He held us to a high bar and was integral to developing and executing the strategy in a way that is relevant to a mass consumer.