So… we’re watching a television commercial for a videogame. This television commercial is taking place within the context of a book, all of which is inside an actual videogame, and which is now in our Let’s Play. So I guess Alan wake wrote a Verizon wireless commercial into his book? So do we blame him?
You know, I don’t really have a serious problem with in-game advertising as long as it’s seamless and not mood-breaking. The television ad was not seamless, and it was mood breaking. By putting it in the middle of this scene that was (or aspired to be) full of tension, it yanked me out of the game and made me resent Verizon. I don’t mind if Peter Parker drinks a coke. I do mind if he drinks a coke while Uncle Ben is bleeding out on the sidewalk. Product placement should never conflict with the tone of the scene, or it will ruin both the scene and the advertisement.
This is especially egregious since we just finished a nice long segment where the ad would have been just fine, perhaps even a welcome novelty.
I’m not just saying this because its an ad for a giant corporation. Even if this had been for a small company, an indie developer, or even a charity – this was the wrong time. This particular ad was a mistake that was a detriment to the developer, the advertiser, and the consumer.
I know some people point out that it’s the job of marketing to get you to notice a product, even with a negative emotion. But that’s just saying advertisers don’t have to be good at their jobs, which is obviously not true. Yes, crappy little companies harass us with shouting infomercials, disingenuous half-promises, or ear-murdering jingles. But generally the big brands (like Verizon) try to keep it clean. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” only applies if you’re an unknown, fighting to be remembered. Once you’re a household name you’re not worried about coverage, you’re worried about perception. If someone is looking at two world-famous products, you don’t want to be known as the “irritating one” or “the stupid one”. I seriously doubt the market of “People who have heard of Sprint but don’t know about Verizon and happen to be in the market for a mobile phone” is particularly big.
A lot of this ties in with stuff Chris said in his retrospective on Sonic the Hedgehog and how Sonic was marketed next to Mario. Check that out if you missed it. Also Penny Arcade mentioned this last week, in relation to the brand placement in Draw Something. I’ve never played it myself, but I understand that this was a conversation that people were having.
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