The release of the PS3 will forever be remembered as Sony’s fall from grace. Having previously developed the greatest selling console in history, Sony was set to continue to take the world by storm. Yet, within a few years time, Sony would let the top position slip through its hands and generate some of the most memorably bad commercials ever released.
By the time the PS3 was ready to be released, Sony had fallen behind in the latest console race by a full year. Microsoft’s second attempt at conquering the gaming market had taken America by storm, and Sony seemed to be unprepared. Feeling the pressure from the new contender, Sony had to remind its audience why the PS3 was the product they should wait for. The commercial they released embodied the feeling most of us got as a child just before a new console came out. The long sleepless nights of anticipation, just waiting to hold this new box of wonderment. Sony realized that for a great portion of younger gamers, a PlayStation had been the first console to ever give them this feeling. But had Sony finally understood what it meant to appeal to its once loyal audience?
Sadly no, without missing a step, Sony decided to shoot themselves in the foot from the start. Somehow, the decision was made to air a commercial involving a crying baby doll and a floating PS3, during Game four of the World Series of Baseball. A broadcast that had 16 million viewers and would be the first time most had a chance to see Sony’s newest console. Trying to generate a memorable, yet discussion worthy commercial, Sony had alienated and lost its fans. The commercial became a joke in the media, and Sony’s momentum died instantaneously. Tripping on their own feet right of the gate was not a mistake they could afford to make with a console debuting at $599, yet they did.
Once Sony had grabbed the viewers’ attention [read: confusion] with its crying baby commercial, they released a series of ads that focused on the key features the system offered. The PS3 was being touted as a multifunctional powerhouse, that would open doors to new and innovative ways to play games. Using this premiss of exceeding expectations, Sony tried to push their new marketing line: “PLAY B3YOND”. Interestingly, Sony decided to hint back at its original PlayStation launch by playing on its ‘E‘ campaign.
Post Launch, Sony decided to use its white room ads to push out some of its PS3 exclusives.
The PS3’s launch in Europe was delayed to the beginning of 2007. Its run started much like the American launch – strong then strange. The first commercial to announce the PS3’s release date was followed by the line “patience can conquer destiny, an ad that was to portray that anyone can achieve their destiny, if they just waited for the proper moment.
The commercial, which had single-handedly placed Sony’s European marketing on the front page of most online publications, was also one of their more “artistic” ventures. Even though some comments called the video brilliant, and others seemed to be little more than befuddled, most agreed that they did not want a PS3. This was the world’s introduction to the “This is Living” tagline, a motto that would be used throughout Europe.
NOTE: Video contains strong imagery and partial nudity:
Luckily, Sony quickly released a number of videos that were less “artistic”, and focused more on being interesting and gaming oriented.
Leading into 2008, Sony dropped the price point of its console in the US to $399. Along with the price drop it released a set of new commercials dubbed, the Universe of Entertainment, which continued the tagline: “PLAY B3YOND”. The ads were split between two distinct sides of the PS3. One commercial turned the console into a war machine with clips of Sony first party titles being played over it. While the other had movie clips playing off of a TV sticking out of a morphing PS3. These commercials were an interesting way to get people to understand the full capability of their new console – something that most of us take for granted, as there is still a significant portion of the population that does not understand that gaming machines have evolved far beyond the capabilities of the NES. Finally a smart move by Sony, but would it pay off?
Later that year during the holiday season of 2008, Sony set “Entertainment Unleashed” upon the world. A series of commercials that focused creating a portrait of the PSN’s unrivaled ability to download movies to the PSP, and the PS3’s ability to create unique experiences. This was a great push during the holidays, but lacked a clear explanation or enough game footage to truly captivate most viewers.
Finally gaining momentum In 2009, Sony had struck gold with its “Dear PlayStation adverts. The commercials had spawned off of a set of commercials for MLB: The Show ’09. Starring 2008’s American MVP Dustin Pedroia, debating his virtual batting stats with a then-unknown Director of Game Accuracy, Kevin Butler. The commercials gained so much popularity that they kept the format and eventually promoted their fictional Director to a fictional VP.
As Kevin Butler became a mainstay for the marketing team at PlayStation, they generated a new slogan to follow its release of the PS3 Slim. The tagline, “IT ONLY DOES EVERYTHING” became the motto to show the diverse capability of Sony’s newly slimmed down giant. The fictional VP gained enough support that he even was brought on stage at Sony’s 2010 E3 press conference as well given his own series of online adverts. Sony was finally taking their marketing seriously and stopped tarnishing their own name for the sake of being memorable.
IT ONLY DOES MOVE
Instead of relying on a figurehead, SCEE had started the “START” campaign to unveil its PS3 Slim release.
But Sony’s reputation was still damaged, especially after the 2011 PSN hack. With this in mind, Sony spent five months working with an advertising team, and 15 outside publishers to create the most epic video game commercial to date. The commercial was a love song to its fans, a way for beloved characters to remind us of the hardships and success stories we have shared. The reality behind why we game, and the mini adventures we all take and forget. This was the start of “LONG LIVE PLAY“, Sony’s newest slogan. In a brilliant move, Sony had forgone throwing standardized marketing techniques at its fans and just said, Thank you for everything.
Laying dormant during the end of 2011, Kevin butler was believed to be pushed out of the limelight. Having only been seen on Sony’s Facebook page and on Twitter, the once VP of Getting Sony’s Commercials to Not Suck, was believed to be gone.
Moving away from the “Dear PlayStation” ads, Kevin Butler had taken over LONG LIVE PLAY.
Still pushing out the PS Move, Sony was also running a much less followed parallel line of commercials.
Expanding its territory, Sony recently launched an ad campaign for the Latin America regions with the slogan “VIVE EN ESTADO PLAY” or “LIVE IN THE STATE OF PLAY”. The first set of commercials depicted a man-baby, who experiences life with childish wonderment. It is unknown if the ads will be shown in other regions, or how well they are being received. But the connotations that some derive from the almost blatant association, might actually offend some viewers who are adamant about the maturity of gaming.
With at least another 2-3 years in the PS3’s lifecycle, it will be impossible to know where Sony will take its advertising campaigns. We have seen them seemingly lose their minds, lose one of the biggest leads in console history, and declare a financial loss of billions. Whether you are a Sony diehard or not, we must all appreciate the effect Sony has had on the industry as a whole. Sadly, if Sony does not start making smarter moves within the ad space, we may be eventually start looking back and wonder where things went wrong. As the PSVita releases worldwide, we must look to the future and see if Sony has finally learned from its mistakes.
Let us know in the comments below what memories you have of Sony’s ad campaigns, and as always stay tuned to PlayStation LifeStyle for the latest information for all things PlayStation. For more freakish PS3 ads that are sure to scar you mentally, carry on to page two.