Wieden Changes Tactics for Madden ’09

LOS ANGELES In its latest work for Electronic Arts’ Madden NFL ’09, Wieden + Kennedy shifts the focus from action footage to the almost fanatical love of the game.

Research on the entire EA product line spearheaded by senior strategic planner Paulo Ribeiro led to the change in tactics, according to Aaron Allen, who teamed with Jed Alger as creative directors on the project.

“EA has been promoted as the most authentic experience with all the details, and some of our campaigns have stressed this, ‘Are you tough enough to play Madden?’ seriousness,” said Allen. “What consumers are looking for are games that are fun, above all else. That insight opened a door. It’s an obvious point, but one almost overlooked in the past.”

Introducing an “intelligent” handicapping feature, one 30-second spot includes a guy named Leon lovingly trash-talking his 8-year-old Madden novice daughter. “She won’t get no wins against me,” Leon says, “I’m not having it. She’s grounded if she does.” In a montage spot where they briefly reappear, he tells her as they start a game, “I brought you into this world, and right now I’m taking you out.” The little girl is unfazed by her dad’s boasting, a subtle plug for intergenerational family play.

In another 30-second spot John Madden himself, at one point matted against a background of his computer-generated game image, explains the IQ feature wherein smart and dumb plays — such as throwing a “Hail Mary” pass instead of punting, a Madden pet peeve — are graded.

A football pro, Jaguars player Maurice Jones-Drew, appears in another spot and suggests that the company launch a “Jones-Drew version.” He adds that he loves playing the game so much they don’t even have to pay him.

The spots urge users to “Jump in,” a line associated with Xbox 360 Live advertising, and also carry the Madden slogan “The game adapts to you” and EA’s familiar “It’s in the game” tag.
Spots for the college-football edition show young-adult fans expressing enthusiasm with a bit of swagger. Ads feature colorful graphic imagery ranging from Harold Lloyd clips to Batman TV-series-style “Kapows!”

“Our intent was to let the stories lead the way,” explains art director Taylor Twist, who was teamed with copywriter Caleb Jensen. “It was always about editing the most interesting personal stories, then scoring them with images, mixing game footage with vintage stuff and any fun stuff we could find.”

“The spots are not as prescriptive or serious as someone pointing a finger at you,” said Allen. “We’re reaching for a bigger idea, the cultural relevance.”