Friday, May 2, 2008
As I've explained in a previous post, the concept of "What have you done for me lately?", relates especially to creative people working in the advertising business. Basically, you're only as good as your last ad. Not unlike having a hit pop song or winning a particular sports contest, the fame one acquires from writing a popular spot is short-lived, although nice when it lasts.
A recent news report on NPR quoted that $1.7 billion dollars was spent on video games in April – a 50% increase year on year from 2007. The Nintendo Wii system led the pack with the entire industry growing even faster than analyst's predictions. In Asia, the online game business is booming with China's market set to triple in the next couple of years. Who could have known the business would grow to be the entertainment juggernaut it has become today.
Well, Minoru Arakawa could have. Mr. Arakawa was President of Nintendo of America in the 80s and 90s and our client whilst working on the Nintendo business at Leo Burnett in Chicago. We worked with a number of marketing executives on the day-to-day business, one – interestingly named George Harrison, but not the Beatle – but when it came to selling a large campaign, Mr. Arakawa was the final decision maker.
The following spot, called, "Cool", was created as a response to consumer research that indicated that adults, mom's and dad's, were borrowing or swiping their children's GameBoy machines and involving themselves in the growing passion of playing video games. What an interesting phenomena, the idea that adults enjoyed playing these games. This would become the challenge of the spot – to give permission to the target without showing them looking irresponsible or childish.
The spot was created by Jonathan Hoffman and myself and shot by director, Mark Story in L.A. The music was composed by Jon Pederson in New York.
I do recall the issue of silliness becoming an issue during the filming of the spot. One of our client's on production felt the entire thing was just too stylistically goofy. There was a big discussion over the spring-loaded airplanes that don the gate attendant's hat – a small touch we felt was absolutely hilarious. Imagine being on a shoot for a video game maker and being told the work was too goofy. We didn't know what to make of that. Here we had a storyboard and script that were nothing but goofy and were being told to tone it back in small detail – still the number of sly jokes we were able to inject into individual scenes was considerable. I'm particularly still happy with the fact that the airline depicted is named Air Dave.
My how the industry has grown. Our campaign ran for about two years and included other spots and a full print campaign. To my knowledge it has been the only campaign ever to have marketed video games to adults exclusively. Nintendo eventually returned to their core focus of teens and moved away from the adult market, the prevailing wisdom being to allow people to continue playing into their adult years without consciously acknowledging it.
As a post script let me relate this story of discussing my career with my father one day.
From Wild Wild East:
After viewing a commercial I had done on TV, my father commented, "Well, David, that was very nice, but I didn't see you in it." I explained to him that I wasn't an actor but understood his confusion in that I had worked as an actor for a community theatre in my teenage years. He went on to question, "You didn't act in it, you didn't direct it, and you're not the voiceover. I don't understand exactly what you did?"
"Well, I thought of it, Dad. I co-wrote it", I told him.
"Hmm", he retorted, "That seems like the easy part. Everyone else is doing all the work."
And the life of the misunderstood creative mind soldiers on.
For more in the 'What Have I Done For You Latley?' series check here:
(I)WHIDFYL I: American Airlines
(II)WHIDFYL II: Nintendo
(III) WHIDFYL III: Charles & Ray Eames
(IV) WHIDFYL IV: Heartbeat Vietnam