Killer Ad Spend Planned For ‘Left 4 Dead 2’

Valve is planning to spend $25 million dollars on advertising for next month s launch of Left 4 Dead 2.   As reported by Gamasutra, the ad spend is significantly more than the $10 million Valve and EA spent on last year’s franchise debut, Left 4 Dead.   That title has sold more than three million units worldwide.  Valve says the sequel’s ad buys will include high profile TV such as NFL Monday Night Football and UFC programs.

Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.

‘Brutal Legend’ TV Ad

EA’s 30-second television spot for Tim Schafer’s Brutal Legend seems to cover the basics.  Introduce cool new hero, check.  Show awesome vehicles and weapons, check.  Mention Jack Black, check.  Rockin’ premise, Shafer-ific characters, hot babes, check, check, check.  The more than 100 classic heavy metal songs licensed for the game…sound check, I’m not getting anything.

Watch it at YouTube.

Exclusive: ‘Online, Viral, Acquisition, Community’

Moderator Scott Steinberg, publisher of, gathers a panel of experts to discuss the power of social media in this session filmed at the 2009 [a]list summit.  Participants include Min Kim, VP of marketing at Nexon America, Keith Lee, CEO of Booyah, Paul Caparotta, media manager at Namco Bandai, and Caryl Shaw, senior producer on Spore for EA and Maxis.

Watch it at the [a]list summit channel.

Product Blogs And Celebrity Plugs Target Of FTC Changes

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has revised the FTC Act governing deceptive practices in commerce to include product testimonials and endorsements by individuals.  In a press release distributed by the FTC, the organization outlined changes in the FTC Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising that affect blogs, celebrity endorsements and other types of online product testimonials.  The changes require that anyone participating in what the FTC explicitly labeled word of mouth marketing disclose material relationships with the companies and products they endorse.  The changes also removed a previous safe harbor where the disclaimer results not typical was considered disclosure.

The news has its fair share of coverage, with plenty of questions about breadth of the rules and how they’re going to be enforced.  It seems any hazy areas would have to be addressed quickly as FTC has moved fast.  While it announced that it would be looking at changes to the act in June of this year, the changes were made public yesterday and take effect December 1, 2009.  That doesn’t give a whole lot time for product endorsers to consider where they fall and what they need to do.  It also takes away any chance of one last Holiday cheer for those used to getting sacks of free bounty this time of year.  The fine for violating the rules is $11,000, according to Washington Post.  A penalty that size could ruin anyone’s Christmas.

The FTC changes are the first of its kind in nearly 30 years, dating back to when word of mouth was something that only fell on ears and Tupperware parties were the height of buzz marketing.  As reported throughout the media, the organization considered the changes after several high profile cases highlighting irregularities came to light, including cases where video game review blogs received free video game consoles.  One example the FTC is providing to reflect rule changes in-fact refers to game reviews, citing how a college student running a game review blog and receiving free copies would now have to disclose that in reviews.

Not surprisingly the blogosphere is buzzing.  One blogger, Ron Hogan of Media Bistro’s book blog Galley Cat, took the time to draw up a letter to the FTC outlining gray areas.  His focus is on his own realm, seeking to understand how the changes might affect bloggers associated with a media organization.  The FTC states that the changes affect individuals more than journalists working at media organizations.  Hogan wonders whether in these cases the FTC would hold the individual or his media organization liable, and even how easily a blogger could establish themselves as a media corporation to get around the rules.  Another blogger, Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine, makes poignant observations about the changes as well.  His stance is one that most bloggers who talked to the media seem to share, that some good will come out of this in ridding the web of some of the more insidious blogging practices.  Jarvis thinks the rule changes are perhaps aiming at curtailing services such as Pay Per Post that pair writers with advertisers.  Yet even there he says the FTC missed the mark, treating product-infused blogs as if the reviews mattered to the advertisers.  Brands seed blogs to spam search engines, not consumers, and that requires more regulation for Google than bloggers.

The grayest of the gray areas might be in what the FTC considers full disclosure.  In removing the results not typical safe harbor, they now require that product testimonials fully state what are considered typical results.  This may work for a diet ad, where the endorser lost 50 pounds but the average person can expect to lose five.  How that applies to subjective product evaluation think a game review is a mystery.  Celebrity endorsements is another shady area, where one blogger asks how the FTC might crack down on those who promote fashion lines by wearing the free clothing and accessories they re provided in public venues such as a red carpet event.

In one of the more interesting late reports on the news, CNET posted a story quoting an FTC official specifying how the rule changes will extend to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  Speaking to CNET’s Caroline McCarthy, associate director of FTC’s advertising division, Richard Cleland, says the organization will consider product placements and testimonials on these sites as endorsements that would fall under the new guidelines.  As an example, he centers on product plugs on celebrities social networking pages.  That prompts McCarthy to quote Brandchannel’s Peter Feld, who predicts a celebrity fined by the FTC to become the first scandal under the new rules.

For its part, the FTC is making statements to soothe some of the panic.  Even with the rule changes looming in less than two months, the organization is saying that its initial focus is going to be on education about the new guidelines, essentially helping the myriad bloggers and product endorsers on the web understand what they need to do to comply.  They acknowledge the difficulty in policing hundreds of thousands of blogs.  They also take some pressure off anyone who might be sweating out the $11,000 fine when they sit down to write a product review on December 2.  The FTC is positioning the new rules as necessary additions to advertising guidelines that historically have been self-policed while giving the government agency leverage to pursue major violators.

You can access previous coverage and various blogs commenting on the news through McCarthy s piece at CNET.

The FTC press release and the full text of the Federal Register Notice, all 81 pages of it, are available at

Find A Beautiful Italian Online

Ducati is charging into viral marketing in a change of strategy in how it traditionally reaches out to customers, reports MediaPost.  The Italian maker of performance motorbikes is launching a campaign designed to entice people to find their perfect Ducati, then give them incentive to share the results through their social networking pages in places such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In.

The campaign, complete with a charming tagline It’s easy to fall in love with a beautiful Italian, is being run through social media marketer Peer2.  Participants take a survey at that pairs them with their ideal Ducati bike.  They are then given incentive to share the results and place a link to the survey in their social networks by rewarding them with points redeemable at Amazon for every click they get from friends.

According to Ducati’s U.S. sales and marketing director Jason Chinnock, the campaign is a move away from the company s traditional segment-oriented print advertising towards social media campaigns meant to promote Ducati as a lifestyle brand.  Chinnock admits Ducati is spending the same amount in digital media as they have in print, only changing their strategy to target a broader set of people who might be interested in their products.

Peer2, or Peer Squared , recently launched its social media marketing service.  Co-founder Joey Caroni told MediaPost that the site currently has about 2,000 members.  Their web site promises a better approach to advertising through social media than traditional display ads, which many marketers agree are not effective on social networking sites.  As in Ducati’s campaign, Peer2 pairs advertisers with social media users willing to promote products through their profile pages.  By the sounds of it Peer2 should familiarize itself with recent changes to FTC rules governing product placement in social media, as reported in today s [a]list daily.

Read more at Media Post {link no longer active}.

Feature: Peter Berg Talks Game Marketing

Video game marketing has come a long way in recent years, with cheap TV commercials giving way to expensive, intricate live action short films that have the feel of a huge Hollywood blockbuster, lending credibility to the industry and its products.

The most recent example of this is writer, director and actor Peter Berg, best known as director of the Will Smith blockbuster Hancock and television’s critically-acclaimed Friday Night Lights. Before tackling the hotly-anticipated Hancock 2, Mr. Berg took to the camera to film the commercial for 2K Sports baseball game, The Bigs 2, which we’ve embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

{video link is marked “private”}

The commercial features Milwaukee Brewers MLB All-Star Prince Fielder going up against a hapless Chicago Cubs catcher, both players additionally symbolized by speeding locomotives that head for an inevitably explosive conclusion. Mr. Berg recently sat down with GameDaily contributing editor John Gaudiosi to discuss how the Hollywood and video games relationship has grown in recent years to include marketing efforts such as the one on display in The Bigs 2 commercial. The opportunity to discuss video games and marketing with a big name Hollywood director is a rare one, so we are proud to eavesdrop in on their insightful conversation as Mr. Berg discusses his video gaming background, thoughts on the making of The Bigs 2 commercial, and how he sees the movies and games relationship as another marketing tool to be used in engaging audiences.

Do you have any memories of playing video games growing up?

I was the Asteroids and Deluxe Asteroids champion of Macalester College, 1982. A proud moment for my parents. They sent me to a fairly expensive liberal arts college, and I was the Deluxe Asteroids master.

Did you stick with video games after the arcades?

Yes. I developed an addiction to Tomb Raider about eight years ago. I write, and I had made a deal with myself that I would write for two hours and play fifteen minutes of Tomb Raider. By the end, it was 10 hours of Tomb Raider and about a minute of writing. I realized I had developed a problem, so I quit Tomb Raider.

How long did that last?

I was pretty good until someone turned me on to Splinter Cell, and I had a relapse right back into the throes of my addiction with Sam Fisher, the star of Splinter Cell. It was about nine hours or so of straight Splinter Cell. I had also gotten to know some of the folks at Ubisoft that made Splinter Cell, so I would call some of the designers at crazy hours when I couldn’t figure something out, demanding answers. Then I realized I had another problem. So now, I’m off, again.

Did you try out 2K Sports’ The Bigs 2 here on set?

They were trying to get me to play the baseball game again, today, and I was trying to be cool about it, like, “Nah, I’ve got to work,” but I was just trying to avoid a relapse.

What are your thoughts about what they can do today with video games like The Bigs 2?

This is an awesome game. The whole idea of building and creating your own player, creating his physical look and his tattoos and his style of play, and then watching him come up through this Mexican farm league that they’ve invented, and then the graphics and the texture and the soul of it, it’s all so interesting. As someone that works in the film business, it continues to amaze me that people still want to go see movies. It’s such a comprehensive entertainment package.

Did your background in video games have any impact on you deciding to get involved with this commercial?

No, I just thought that the creative was really good. It was an interesting challenge, and I liked the energy of it. For me, it’s an educational experience. Any time you get to play around with effects like this, put a pro baseball player on top of a moving train and smash ’em together, you learn things that hopefully I can use in film one day. It helps me to educate myself from a technological standpoint.

And what was it like working with MLB All-Star Prince Fielder on this?

Oh, easy. He’s a real nice guy and wanted to do a good job. It was very quick and painless.

What are your thoughts on the convergences going on between games and Hollywood?

It’s still a shaky marriage that’s never paid off. We were talking earlier today, that Tomb Raider remains the most successful collaboration between Hollywood and the world of video games. That was a modest success. Splinter Cell never happened for a variety of reasons. Halo, which probably would have been the biggest hit, hasn’t been able to make a deal, and Grand Theft Auto, which would be a huge hit, they won’t make a deal. They want to protect the brand. So far, it really has not proven to be a hugely financial gold mine for anybody. I think that it’d be cool if the two worlds could operate independently of each other.

Do you think that the generation of Hollywood creatives who grew up playing games will lean towards convergence at some point?

I don’t know. Right now, Hollywood is all about superheroes and comic books and fantasy stories, and taking those brands and trying to convert them. We have yet to see a monster video game captured by film put up the same kind of numbers as Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. It just hasn’t happened, and I’m not quite sure why. I would imagine one day it will. I think if Grand Theft Auto or Halo decided to sell out and go big, you’d see those kinds of numbers.

What are your thoughts of the other side of convergence when a movie is turned into a video game?

Same thing. It’s a nice marketing tool. The studios hide those numbers from us, so that if they are huge numbers, they don’t want the filmmakers or actors’ unions knowing about it because we’ll just fight for pieces of it. I haven’t heard of a video game based on a movie that really broke the bank.

Neither have we. Thanks for your time.

Thank you to GameDaily for giving us an inside look at how video game marketing is looked at by one of today s hottest directors.

Shack News Video Game Release List 10/4 – 10/10

Shack News video game release list 10/4 10/10

This week s release slate for PC, 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii and DS.  EA and 2K go one-on-one with their NBA games hitting major consoles.

Hoop dreams abound with NBA Live 10 from EA Sports and NBA 2K10 from 2K Sports slated for release this week for PS2, PS3, PSP and 360, along with Sony’s NBA 10: The Inside for PSP.  Other broad releases include Star Wars Clone Wars: Republic Heroes hitting all consoles and PC, and versions of Spore hitting Nintendo consoles.

Check out the full list at Shack News {link no longer active}.

Beautiful Goals From The Beautiful Game

An EA Sports marketing campaign supporting the release of FIFA 10 in Spain allowed players to share highlights through one of the country’s most popular web sites.  Users were encouraged to capture video of their best goals while playing the demo and upload it to popular Spanish sports daily site

Read more at Adverblog.

Developer Slip Sparks 360 Universal Video Tool Rumor

In an interview with Kotaku, an unnamed developer stated that Microsoft is developing a universal tool to enable Halo-like video-capture capability in other 360 games.  Kotaku called the statement a slip and therefore chose not to name the developer.   Among other statements in response to Kotaku’s inquiry, which the web site labeled “coy,” Xbox Live director Scott Austin said, “We’re always looking to innovate.”

Read more from Kotaku.

Class Action Suit Claims PS3 Update Caused Hardware Failures

A class action suit has been filed in Florida against Sony Computer Entertainment America, reports Gamasutra.  The suit claims that Sony s recent firmware 3.0 update for PS3 caused thousands of systems to malfunction and sustain hardware damage.  The suit further claims that Sony is charging $150 to repair systems damaged by the update.

Sony acknowledged complaints from users, such as game freezes and malfunctioning controllers, after the update.  It released follow-up firmware to fix the issues.  The plaintiff in the suit alleges that the follow-up didn’t remedy the issues and in-fact caused further damage to the Blu-ray drive.

Read more at Gamasutra {link no longer active}.