- The PS3 likely won't outsell the Wii or Xbox 360 this holiday, but thanks to a new price and new ad campaign things are moving in the right direction. We speak with Scott Steinberg, SCEA's VP of Product Marketing, about the latest strategy.
Last year, Sony launched a controversial series of ads for the PS3 centering on the "white room." Very indirect and symbolic, the ads conjured up a wide variety of reactions, not all of them positive. It's debatable whether they were trying to cover up the fact that there weren't exactly a lot of games to show in the launch period, but regardless, it got a rise out of people.
This year, Sony is going the more direct route and showing all the possibilities for the PS3 in its ads. This includes not only the games, but also Blu-ray movies, PlayStation Network, and even the anticipated PlayStation Home. Between all that, and the new price of $399, it's certainly helped get the buzz out for the system.
We talked with Scott Steinberg, VP of Product Marketing at SCEA, to get the scoop on the PS3 ad campaign.
Welcome to the show
Back in late October, GameDaily BIZ previewed the new, upcoming advertising campaign for the PS3. These new web and TV spots utilized computer animation to animate the exterior of the PS3, creating a "lush onyx world." The visually dynamic ads, showing off rendered scenes and videos of PS3 gameplay, were all set to the driving sounds of alternative rock band Saliva.
"The reaction we've gotten has been fantastic in terms of how people have looked at our content behind the campaign and the support we've gotten, the media value we've received and the impact we've had," described Steinberg. "It's exceeded all our expectations. We've had great comments from analysts and our business partners that it's really elevating the PS3 business."
"The ad spot has really broken out musically and visually," he continued. "It's the sort of ad that when you see it, you just blast the noise on your TV; it's a rare sort of commercial to have that reaction. The visual imagery around the spot really conveys the power of the PS3. It really showed the breadth of the system's capabilities."
Commenting on the ad's soundtrack titled Ladies and Gentleman, Steinberg added, "[Saliva] wasn't even rated on iTunes at first, and then after the campaign it made it to some top list. We're reading on the forums and the blog posts that the kids who knew who the group was spread the word, and the campaign has been so popular it's led to success for the band."
Your eyes and your ears will be bleeding
Along with being flashy and attention grabbing, these ads also highlighted important selling points for the PS3. Primary among them are the ever widening portfolio of PS3 titles (including Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, and Heavenly Sword) and the system's new entry point of $399. Not to be lost in the mix is the PS3's Blu-ray movie capability, which is both important to SCEA and the Sony group in general moving forward.
"Our research pointed to two barriers which were, without question, price and portfolio of titles," ventured Steinberg. "We feel we solved that with the $399 price package. In the ads, we also show more games from first-party developers, but we also partnered with various third partly companies, like Activision, EA and Ubisoft to tag some of their commercials with PS3 branding - titles like Call of Duty 4, The Simpsons Game and Assassins Creed. We feel it is a comprehensive ad campaign as that every male, ages 18 - 45, has been exposed to it at least a few times."
"Our retail partners have bundled a lot of Blu-ray content, which really complement the ads. All of that says that our PS3 system with a Blu-ray player is a great incentive for the holiday. Blu-ray is the premium machine to build your home entertainment center around," he continued. "Obviously, Blu-ray is very strategic for Sony and is a vital part of the campaign. We see it as one of our key differentiators so that's why it's being promoted in stores so aggressively. It's no doubt that it's a big part of our value proposition [for the PS3] and we feel we have done a great part of emphasizing on the merchandising half of things; it's paying dividends."
Dude, you're getting a PSP
For the totality of the PlayStation brand, Steinberg expects a great rest of the year. That includes not only the PS3, but the PSP as well. Helped by the new PSP Slim and the special packaged bundles, the PlayStation Portable is quietly reaching new heights while the next-gen console war rages in the background.
"[The PSP is] having a monster holiday in part because of the campaign, but also because of the sharper price, and some great values on the system," said Steinberg. "The 'Dude' campaign has been an instigator of a lot of that, mirroring the fanaticism we see for the platform, the technology and the games. We're also seeing it evolve and become stronger in the teen and tween demographic, and that's where we're seeing the hottest growth."
"The PS3 campaign continues through the end of the year," he added, shifting gears. "We haven't made any announcements [on the campaign] rolling into the next quarter, so I can't comment on that, but you'll see more ads for first-party software, titles like Uncharted and also things that embrace our third party partners where you'll see the ads that have the $399 splash at the end. Speaking of Uncharted, there's so much discussion about the convergence of movies and games, [but with Uncharted] we feel we've finally achieved that grand goal. The game looks great, the music is spectacular and we've done all we can to market it well."
Sega to Sony connection
Steinberg's experience reaches far back before Sony and all the way back to Sega during the heyday of the Genesis. With that in mind, we asked him how his prior experience helped him with his current marketing position at Sony Computer Entertainment. While he said that discussion could "last for two hours" he tried to summarize it as best as possible.
"I was at Sega at the early '90s and I was there for four years after it became a software company," mused Steinberg. "Today, the industry doesn't look anything like it does 15 years ago, except for the people involved. There is so much passion around the technology and the products, and a lot of that at Sony reminds me of the 'halcyon' days when 16-bit was just taking off. Fast forwarding to the last few years at Sega, it helps me understand both sides of the software fence, and gain appreciation for what third parties are doing in a lot of the programs for the PSP, PS3 and even PS2. So it helps me come in with a bit more of balanced point of view."
"People really love this business, [and once you're in it] you become addicted to it. If you leave, which I have, you really understand why this is a cool business. You almost get ruined from doing anything else, making it harder to go over to any other industry. It's hard work, with lots of risk, but there's nothing like an industry where people can get passionate about what they do. Things like that are few and far between, and that's why people come back to the industry. There's nothing like the technology and entertainment businesses; we've merged them both and it's an additive cocktail," he concluded.