The computer game Tomb Raider was an instant hit when it arrived in
the shops in November 1996. Its heroine, Lara Croft, was the first-ever
digital sex symbol, an unfeasibly busty gun-toting cyber-chick who dived
through a series of mind-bending mazes at the player’s command.
Lara’s inventors at Core Design had given her a fully-formed identity
with a detailed personal history. The game’s distributors, Eidos
Interactive, hired Herald Communications to help launch her onto the
To turn Lara Croft into the best-known female computer game character,
and to build her reputation in the mainstream media with a view to
dispelling the anorak image of computer games.
The Tomb Raider account was Herald’s first venture into the computer
games market. When appointed, the first version of the game had just
been released and Tomb Raider II was due on the market within ten
months, so Herald had limited time to build Lara’s reputation.
The team began by launching an intensive information assault on the
It targeted individual publications by offering exclusive digital images
of Lara reading the latest issue of their title, and helped turn her
into a virtual reality star by sending out personalised letters and
Herald added interest value for specific audiences by getting relevant
celebrities to review the game. Meanwhile, Eidos selected a real-life
model in the form of Rhona Mitra to pose as Lara for fashion shoots.
The campaign was boosted by the recent launch of Sony Playstation. Its
smash-hit success meant the computer games industry was booming, and for
the first time was reaching into the mainstream through retail outlets
such as WH Smith and Woolworths. Tomb Raider used the most up-to-date
computer graphics, which gave it appeal as a technical novelty.
Lara’s success has inspired a host of imitations but Tomb Raider has
nonetheless achieved and maintained its market lead by effectively
appealing to a wide audience and promoting Lara as a personality in her
own right - the ideal woman in virtual reality for men and a cool 1990s
icon with qualities for women to aspire to.
Lara Croft has been catapulted to worldwide fame, with appearances on
more than 80 magazine covers and a mass of editorial coverage. She was
the first digital image ever to appear on the front cover of The Face
magazine and Melody Maker, and she starred as a pin-up in Loaded. She
has been on the cover of the Sunday Telegraph magazine, and on national
radio and television.
Lara has been on tour with the pop band U2, and is about to hit
Hollywood as the star of a non-digital multi-million pound movie from
Paramount Pictures. The first two versions of the game have sold more
than six million copies, have won numerous awards, and the third version
is due out later this year.
The success of Lara Croft can be credited to a highly effective mix of
design, marketing and PR, and an element of good timing.
Mark Sutherland , editor of Melody Maker, says, ’In our interviews with
pop stars we were finding such enthusiasm for the game. Lara had become
a virtual reality rock and roll icon. She’s cool, she fits in with the
image of the moment, and having our own digital image of Lara reading
Melody Maker certainly helped her get onto the front cover.’
Client: Eidos Interactive
PR Team: Herald Communications
Campaign: Tomb Raider/Lara Croft
Timescale: January 1997 - ongoing