Ritchie has helmed the third installment of Activision’s live action “There’s a Soldier In All of Us” campaign, which bows with a 60-second spot during tonight’s “Monday Night Football” to promote the latest “Call of Duty” videogame, “Black Ops II.” Game bows Nov. 13.
Previous ads have paired Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel, and Jonah Hill and Sam Worthington in explosive military situations. But to promote “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” Activision wanted to go broader and appeal to specific auds that have turned the games into a record-breaking franchise.
“We always like to have two people you don’t expect to see in a commercial,” said Tim Ellis, chief marketing officer of Activision, the industry’s largest gamemaker. “It’s important to have stars who resonate globally but who can also have relevance in key markets.”
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With Downey Jr., whom Ritchie directed in the “Sherlock Holmes” franchise, Activision gets a notable worldwide name. But it tapped French thesp Sy, who broke out with his role in “The Intouchables,” to court consumers in Activision’s second-largest market, Europe. It wanted “FPSRussia,” known for his videos in which he demonstrates the firepower of unusual weapons, to help reach out to “CoD’s” growing online fanbase.
The Internet “is where our target audience is and where our community is,” Ellis said.
New marketing effort also will tap into the app market with its own version of Bad Robot Interactive’s popular “Action Movie FX” app.
Ad shop 72andSunny worked with Activision to produce the frenetic ad filled with over-the-top visuals, while The Mill handled the extensive visual f/x duties.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about and planning how the explosions look how the world and weapons will come to life,” Ellis said.
To start building buzz for the launch, Activision used the NBA playoffs this spring to introduce a teaser spot featuring “FPSRussia” using a prototype of one of the weapons in the game, to promote its futuristic 2025 setting. That was followed by a documentary on near-future weaponry and the reveal of its main villain before the E3 videogame confab, and then paired up with the launch of WB’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The campaign “started much earlier this year to create that element of surprise to keep people engaged and interested up to the launch,” Ellis said.
The teaser aired once during the NBA game and has since generated more than 27 million views in less than seven months.
“Our fans are starved for anything we put out there,” Ellis said. Because of that, the company has increased its focus on social media better managing how it distributes assets online throughout the year. “There really is an art to it,” Ellis said. “You don’t want to release too much. You want (gamers) wanting to see the next piece of the game that is going to come out.”
Ellis stresses that while the trailer is meant to bring elements of the game to life, and push the theme of “bad ass fun,” “we pay tribute to it but it’s not the game,” Ellis said. The spot, which also will air in a 30-second version, will be backed with another ad showing off “Black Ops II’s” gameplay.
The live action spot “thrills and gets the attention of our audience but we also found they need to see the gameplay trailer to close the sale,” Ellis said.
New ad will air mostly during sports and latenight programming in the U.S. and Europe with promos also getting a major digital push.
Activision declined to disclose the budget of its latest “Call of Duty” campaign, but “we will be extremely visible,” Ellis said.
With each “Call of Duty” game breaking industry sales records for the past three years, “the challenge of topping yourself every year is intense,” Ellis said. “We’re not only the biggest videogame franchise in the industry, we’re also the biggest entertainment franchise based on weekly sales.”
Last year’s game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” became the biggest entertainment launch of all time when it sold 6.5 million copies in the U.S. and U.K. within 24 hours, earning $400 million. This year, Activision goes up against Microsoft’s “Halo 4” and Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed III” among top titles bowing this fall, stealing away attention from gamers. “There’s no more pressure this year than last year,” Ellis said. “Next year will be another year of intense competitive launches as well as news in the industry. It’s very important for us to continue to surprise our community and the new players we’re appealing to in the U.S. and globally. But even we are continually surprised and humbled by the type of talent that wants to be part of this and be part of the (‘Call of Duty’) brand.”