In The “If You’re Thinking It, Someone Else Is Already Doing It” Category

by | Oct 8, 2004

from Adweek:

The New York office of Portland, Ore.-based Wieden + Kennedy won the first Yahoo! Big Idea Chair Award, which honors unconventional ideas in advertising, for its campaign for Sega’s ESPN National Football League video game. The work centered on Beta7, a fictional video game tester who claimed playing it made him black out and tackle people at random, and thus the game should be banned. TV and print ads were also part of the mix.

“What we were trying to do with the Beta7 work was really create a multidimensional storytelling experience, something that people could not only watch but actually participate in,” said Ty Montague, an Andy judge and Wieden creative director about the Beta7 campaign.

“It’s so ahead of its time it’s almost unjudgeable,” added judge Guy Seese, creative director at Cole & Weber/Red Cell in Portland. “It’s a campaign that manifests itself on a grassroots level and proliferates online.”

Here’s some of the award-winning ad copy from the Beta-7 site:

Sega is a deceitful corporate juggernaut that will stop at nothing in it’s short sighted pursuit of the almighty dollar, even if it means destroying the lives of innocent people.

And I DON’T mean Sega destroyed my life as in, “Their games are so addictive I sat on my ass playing them until my girlfriend left me and I weighed 450 lbs. so now I want a hefty cash settlement.” No friends, my VERY REAL problems, which are a direct result of the very real and deliberate actions by the Sega Corporation include:

-Bruises and welts on and about my head, neck, torso, arms, and legs, as well as a debilitating sprain to my right ankle and cuts on my right forearm.

-Threat of further physical violence.

-Destruction of my personal property.

-Loss of my job and livelihood.

-Unpredictable, uncontrollable, violent outbursts that I have no memory of, which have made me a stranger to my friends and family.

Sega thinks they can just use human beings as guinea pigs in their sick experiments, then toss them aside like trash and forget about them. They MUST NOT be allowed to get away with this, and with your help they won’t.

Naturally, customers*, in this case gamers, might find this approach confusing, as never before in the history of advertising (to my knowledge) has a firm taken this bold of an approach. I’m still formulating my opinion as to the campaign’s merits. For sure, this is an interesting development, and one that involves the customer directly. That part I salute. But it concerns me that the central character in this drama is fictitious, not because of the fiction itself, but due to the fact that consumers were not clued in to the fact that it was fiction. This is advertising masked as something else. I envision a much different, more honest use of blogs and other media, as the future of marketing.

In a prelude to this hoax, Seattle agency Wong Doody introduced Skyhigh Airlines on the web, ostensibly to benefit their client Alaska Air, but the Skyhigh site is obviously pure humor with no deception.

Many thanks to my former colleague, Jay Roth of Integer Denver, for bringing this work to my attention.

*There’s reason to believe this supposed consumer’s site, is actually part of Sega’s Beta-7 campaign. For one, I just sent an e-mail to the address provided and it bounced back.