CAMPAIGNS: Consumer PR - Game Boy launch plays well all over

Client: Nintendo of America (Redmond, WA)
PR Team: Golin/Harris (LA)
Campaign: Game Boy Advance Launch
Time Frame: March 2001-September 2001
Budget: About $250,000

Golin/Harris and Nintendo have the kind of long-term relationship PR firms dream of. For 10 years, the two have worked together to help the Japanese video-game company stay atop a competitive industry. Last spring, they set out to launch Nintendo's latest product, the Game Boy Advance. The predecessor to this handheld system is one of Nintendo's best sellers, and the company had high expectations for this next-generation device. But video-game consumers and media have long been jaded by high-concept products and promotions, so Golin recognized the need to be both creative and targeted with its campaign.

Strategy

There is a longstanding prejudice in the video-game world that handheld systems aren't as good as stationary ones, in part because the compact versions often have lower-quality graphics. Nintendo sought to emphasize that this new system offered the best quality yet.

Golin, which has 21 people working on the account full-time, also wanted to create an "organic experience where media and consumers could see and use the product first-hand, and learn that "you could truly play the Game Boy Advance anywhere, anytime, explains Golin SVP Tina Vennegaard.

Tactics

The firm designed a multi-part campaign that targeted both video-game journalists and consumers. To kick off the launch, Nintendo invited five influential editors to join them on a trip to Japan. Dubbed the "Akihabari Safari, after the Tokyo electronics district of that name, Golin decided that since "most of the hot teen trends start in Japan, we wanted them to experience the start of a hot trend for themselves, says Vennegaard.

For the drive's second leg, Golin arranged a "summer camp for about 30 reporters in Northern California. Over a four-day period, journalists were shown how easy it is to use the Game Boy Advance while horseback riding, sitting around a campfire, or lounging on the beach.

"It really drove home the idea that you can take it anywhere, says Vennegaard.

To reach consumers, Golin stayed true to the theme of mobility by creating a street team of "human interactives in specially designed jumpsuits, she explains. The street teams, chosen from hard-core Nintendo fans, hit various locales in 10 different markets, and allowed consumers to play Game Boys that were teetered to these human billboards.

"Kids would gather around them and play the Game Boy Advance off their jumpsuits, says Vennegaard. "Traditional campaigns will be centered around a van, or in a mall setting. This let us go to places where kids gathered. It gave us more flexibility in what we could do."

Results

"Overall, we got more than 295 million impressions, says Vennegaard.

"It was one of the most successful campaigns we have ever done for them."

In addition to making the pages of all the relevant publications, Golin says the campaign also increased its pull with media outlets. "It helped us take our relationship with the teen press to a new level, says Vennegaard.

"Those guys are being hit up by everyone. This was a different way of building a strong relationship with them."

More importantly, however, in the months following the campaign, Game Boy Advance sales eclipsed those of all other video-game systems combined.

To date, 7 million units have been sold in the US alone.

Future

Golin/Harris hopes to continue its relationship with Nintendo for years to come, and plans to continue to build creative and original campaigns for the company. "It's really great to work with a company and a client that lets you try new, fun, wacky elements, raves Vennegaard.

Look for campaigns to support new games for the Game Boy Advance in the near future.

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