Distinctly cell shaded and drenched in chaos, the Borderlands video game series is far from subtle. So when I say that the ads for Borderlands 3 might sneak up on you, that’s no small feat.
Like Mad Max driving a burning fleshdozer through a Tide ad, the “Let’s Make Some Mayhem” campaign currently running in digital and social features spots that seem predictably bland on first blush, then go full masked psychopath.
Created by 2K’s in-house creative teams, the spots give a subtle hint of something amiss when the video first begins glitching, and then things truly go off the rails.
While ads mocking ads are nothing new, these Borderlands 3 spots are especially attention-grabbing on Instagram, where you’ve come to expect plenty of footage of perfect parties packed with beautiful people. So when one of those idealized scenes explodes into a scorched-earth wasteland populated by demon dogs and violent freaks, it tends to catch your eye.
On YouTube, the campaign’s bait-and-switch approach gets a more customized twist, with clickbait titles like “How to Make an Upside Down Pizza” and “The 10 Worst Tasting Dog Foods.” (Dare we ask who exactly would be clicking on that last one?)
It’s been seven years since the last full installment in the Borderlands series, set amid an interplanetary wasteland where most everything wants to kill you. (That long wait likely explains the Etta James “At Last” interlude in each ad.)
For longtime fans, the ads are a good reminder of how tantalizingly close they are to getting their hands on the new volume. But the pure, joyous insanity of the campaign might also win over some new audiences in the process—unless they were really excited about discovering those 10 superlatively awful-tasting dog foods.
Game Developer: Gearbox Software
VFX & Cinematics: Halon Entertainment
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