Ouya has been looking for ways to create some buzz around its Android-powered $99 console, which was introduced in July to mixed reviews and unremarkable sales. So you might think posting a company-created ad on its YouTube site might generate some enthusiasm. Perhaps, if fans liked it, the video would go viral and get a lot of people to notice Ouya.
Ouya posted a video Wednesday night to its YouTube channel, a 30-second animated bit featuring a gamer projectile vomiting in dismay over standard console games. The response was rapid and overwhelmingly negative, so Ouya quickly pulled the ad. Ouya has confirmed that this ad was in fact put out by the console manufacturer, but it was only meant to "get feedback" from users rather than stay a permanent installation. The company explained this in a statement to Eurogamer, where it added: "We are experimenting with animated content and posted this video briefly to get feedback from our community. Stay tuned for our official video!"
The [a]list daily reached out to some industry veterans in PR and marketing to get some reactions to the video, and thoughts on how Ouya should proceed with its marketing and PR for the console. It's an extraordinarily difficult time for marketing a new console, with all of the money and attention being lavished on new consoles from Sony and Microsoft – just ask Nintendo.
Scott Steinberg, head of video game consulting firm TechSavvy, offers some straightforward advice to Ouya. “Ouya's best strategy at this point is to acknowledge, explain, address and apologize for the issue. As a company, it needs to acknowledge that there's a disconnect, explain how the issue occurred, address viewers' concerns, and apologize for the mistake,” said Steinberg. “Once done, the business can begin moving forward and adapting messaging to be more user-friendly. Simply ignoring the problem won't make it go away - however, once confronted, so long as it's dealt with in a professional manner that acknowledges audiences' opinions and takes their voice to heart (including showing steps the company is taking to address these concerns) both customers and the company should be able to move on.”
A marketing executive who's been in the game industry for many years wonders about the way the ad is targeted. “This doesn't appear to be part of a market research test. The ad is pretty much done, other than perhaps an end slate and call to action. BUY NOW!,” said the exec. “It completely misses the consumer benefit part of the proposition and relies solely on gamers' "disgust" over bad and remade games that aren't different from their predecessors. It would be interesting to hear from them what their approval process will be to ensure that this sort of thing never happens on their platform.”
The exec went on to get specific about the response to the ad and its content. “Everyone is talking about a bad ad and there's nothing in it that sets Ouya apart from the competition. They're using words like amateur, crass, gross, disgusting...nothing that you'd want your brand associated with. They could have talked about their $99 price point, their Android operating system, their FREE games that will never burn your wallet, their appeal to the common man...anything.”
From a PR standpoint, Ouya's ad may not be all bad news. “Anytime people are talking about you, people are talking about you. So that's good, right?” said a veteran PR executive who has dealt with a wide range of games with a variety of publishers. “Particularly when everyone is mostly talking about your two competitors (to be kind), who are about to outspend in marketing the entire net worth of your company by a factor of 10X.”
“It's interesting watching the indignation and scorn that the online world has heaped on the promo and speaks volumes to why Ouya was "testing" the video with their audience instead of rolling it out wide. It's really not much worse than most of the nonsense that Cartoon Network puts on its channel after 10 PM and is almost charming in its clear lack of demographic connection and understanding. Also, the Internet loves to hate things.”
There's nothing like some examples from the history of video game advertising to put Ouya's ad into perspective. “The spot itself reminds me of 90's-era game advertising (especially the stuff that came out of the UK), where ads were taken to controversial eXXXtremes in order to seem "authentic" or grab the attention of the mysterious gamer but really just came across as eye-rolling, Poochie-style cultural whiffs,” said the PR exec, citing numerous examples. “Does it fall flat? Absolutely. But this also explains why it wasn't front and center on Ouya's website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, Twitter account, Vine, Vimeo, Instagram, etc.”
“I am a bit perplexed by this spot since Ouya has seemed really on top of their messaging for most of their short history -- everything about their Kickstarter was well done and still serves as a model for running a campaign on that platform, Sony and MS are just now climbing onto the indie bandwagon that Ouya clearly recognized and embraced much earlier and the price point of the hardware indicates that they both recognize their strengths and weaknesses,” continued the PR exec. “Granted, the polish is off the apple a bit since the boxes have begun landing in people's laps and the realization is setting in that $99 isn't going to buy you something with the same quality of design or software catalog as a system from Sony or Microsoft.”
“Sometimes a bit of disruptive marketing is exactly what a product needs to remain relevant or resurface in the public eye. It must be hard for the Ouya crew to break through the XboxOne and PS4 noise right now, so they're probably testing several different methods of doing so. It's unfortunate that an asset that was not fully vetted or ready for primetime managed to get out in the wild, but people occasionally need reminders that there are no secrets on the Internet.”