Ad of the Day: Activision

Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill are the vet and the noob in 72andsunny's explosive 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3' spot

Activision's Call of Duty franchise is putting its stamp on video-game advertising by rethinking one of the oldest tricks in the book—the celebrity endorsement.

Normally, if you're a big enough star, you have little choice but to play yourself in ads. But the fluid nature of identity in gaming offers some wiggle room. Celebrities can play characters in a gaming spot, and it doesn't seem forced or weird—in fact, it's strangely thrilling. In the gaming universe, they, like us, are both player and character simultaneously—themselves, yet not themselves. This allows them to bring their personal cachet to a spot, yet step beyond it into a concurrent fictional persona. Thus, when Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel showed up in TBWA\Chiat\Day's great 2010 spot for Call of Duty: Black Ops, it seemed both pleasantly incongruous and entirely apt. They brought star power without it seeming gratuitous, or breaking the internal logic of the ad. They, like us, simply escaped and became soldiers.

Now, 72andsunny extends the idea in an explosive new live-action trailer, directed by Peter Berg, for the latest game in the franchise—Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. This time the celebrities are Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill, an odd couple who play "the vet and the noob"—i.e., the experienced gamer/soldier and the newbie. Instantly, they're in battle, first in a burned-out New York City, then moving on to Berlin, Paris and Moscow—as Hill slowly learns how to become a better fighter. By the end, of course, he has it down pat. (His newly slimmed-down physique makes his transformation from goofball to badass feel all the more believable.)

There's a solid strategic underpinning to the pairing. Activision says it wants to crush the sales figures of last year's Black Ops title, which itself was staggeringly popular. To do so, it needs to attract plenty of new players, while obviously not alienating the more experienced gamers. Worthington and Hill are perfect for this challenge—the Avatar stud teaching the Knocked Up slacker to toughen up. The humor is nicely woven in, giving way to an epic ending that's expertly executed. (Visually, the spot is as impressive throughout as any video-game advertising you'll see.)

It seems unfair to nitpick a commercial that gamers have already deemed a classic (to the tune of almost 2 million YouTube views in just a couple of days.) Still, there's no single visual here that quite rivals the Burger Man shot from the Black Ops ad. And the soundtrack, AC/DC's "Shoot to Thrill," while suitably energetic and faux epic, can't quite measure up to the earlier spot's "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones. (Though to be fair, what song could?)

"There's a soldier in all of us," says the continuing tagline. It's the most democratic of slogans. But kudos to Activision and its agencies for finding a way to bring celebrities into the mix—an elite corps who somehow still manage to keep the playing field level for all.


Client: Activision Publishing

Product: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Title: "The Vet and the n00b"

Client: Activision Publishing

CEO: Eric Hirshberg

EVP, Chief Marketing Officer: Tim Ellis

VP, Consumer Marketing: Todd Harvey

Senior Director, Consumer Marketing: Susan Hallock

Consumer Marketing Manager: Jason Taylor

Agency: 72andSunny

Chief Creative Officer: Glenn Cole

Creative Director, Writer: Jason Norcross

Creative Director, Designer: Bryan Rowles

Writer: Walter May

Brand Director: Evin Shutt

Brand Manager: Jen Marvin

Director of Film Production: Sam Baerwald

Producers: Angelo Ferrugia, Dan Ruth

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