Consumer campaigns are playing to a worldwide audience.
Microsoft's "Halo 2" launch campaign
"Everyone needs to be aligned on the strategy, but have the flexibility to modify the tactical implementation as appropriate by market. ... PR's got to have a seat at the table early to help form strategy. ... I don't think this launch would have been as successful, and I don't think we would have been able to accomplish the things we did, had PR been brought into the mix late."
-- Pete Pedersen, Edelman, SVP
In the video-gaming world, one blockbuster game title can be enough to popularize an entire gaming system. As more and more users across the globe turn to video games as an entertainment option on the same level as movies, music, and more traditional media, software companies' promotions become ever more intricate.
That's why Microsoft wanted its agency partner, Edelman, to launch its hotly anticipated sequel, Halo 2, with the same fervor and savvy as a worldwide movie rollout. The promotion's online focus meant that it reached its worldwide target audience in the virtual gaming world with ease.
"Microsoft, on the eve of launching Xbox 360, needed a way to very quickly gain market share against the entrenched competitor," says Edelman SVP Pete Pedersen, who is the client relationship manager for the Microsoft account.
The game was already highly anticipated by the fan base of the first Halo. But the agency spent nine months before the November 2004 rollout making sure that its launch would have broad-based appeal, as well.
Edelman decided to dually pursue both the existing fans in Europe, Asia, and the US, as well as a list of celebrities with worldwide fame who were "closet Halo fans," as its main influence drivers.
"You've got at the top of the influence pyramid these two super-influential groups, [so] how do we use both of these groups to stimulate this sort of pop culture hysteria?" Pedersen asks. The agency decided to slowly and methodically parcel out bits of information about the game to selected audiences to hype the notion of those "in the know" versus those who wanted to be in the know. "It's that tension between those in the mix and those wanting to be in the mix that really was the impetus for the whole thing," says Pedersen.
In fact, Microsoft created an entire online "alternate reality game" (ARG) called I Love Bees, whose plotline was tangentially related to that of Halo 2. The game's reward? More information about Halo 2. The ARG became such a phenomenon that it became a human-interest story for worldwide media.
At the same time, celebrities who had received early looks at the game - from Wilmer Valderrama to rock band Incubus - were stimulating interest in pop culture circles.
"We really wanted to play up ... this worldwide anticipation thing," says Pedersen. The excitement in the US spread immediately via the internet and traditional media to Europe and Asian gaming communities. And the coordinated global rationing of information worked: 7,000 retailers across the world opened their doors at midnight on November 9 to sell Halo 2. Its sales figures in the first 24 hours of its release - 2.4 million copies and $125 million - proved that video games had reached top-tier status in the entertainment world. As Pedersen notes, "This thing was marketed like a movie ... [and] it was all driven by PR up until the last couple of weeks."
Kodak EasyShare-One wi-fi camera launch campaign
"A clearly defined strategy with the ability to flexibly execute [is key]. If you take too much of a cookie-cutter approach, you'll fall over. ... We call it 'glocal.' Think global, act local."
-- Roy Edmonson, Ketchum, SVP
Anyone can take photos on a digital camera, transfer them to a computer, and e-mail them. But to e-mail directly from the camera? The future is here.
Kodak's EasyShare-One is the first wi-fi camera with that capability, and the company turned to Ketchum to ensure that the product was heralded as a major technological step forward.
Planning began in September 2004 for the October 2005 launch. Kodak had declared in 2003 that its future rested in the digital domain. "The whole emphasis was placed on the digital future and taking the initiative in that arena. To do that, [Kodak] needed some kind of market-leading product," says Ketchum SVP Roy Edmonson, the Kodak global account director. "The EasyShare-One ... was that item."
Ketchum wanted to create a campaign that would engender the same "magical feelings" about the new camera that iPods created when they hit the scene. To do so, while targeting cool young influencers, it devised a worldwide series of "pop-up galleries," where thousands of consumers got free demonstrations of the new product.
The first galleries opened in New York and San Francisco this month, hosting ritzy parties with music magazines and even posting a blog about the events to build buzz and position the product as edgy and new.
The agency decided to start the worldwide launch in the US, at the general-interest Consumer Electronics Show this past January. Ketchum and Kodak also set up a similar gallery in Australia, which drew celebrity attendance and nationwide media coverage; in China, which hosted a photo exhibition and camera demos; and in Paris and across the UK, where pop-up events based on the US model built anticipation for the EasyShare-One.
"It's all about getting the camera in people's hands and feeling that moment of, 'Wow! I just sent a picture to my computer,'" Edmonson says.
Intense competition is expected in the wi-fi camera market soon, but Kodak can always say it popped onto the worldwide scene first.
HP Go! Mobile campaign
"What's really important is being able to assemble the right team straight away. It's really identifying that global team from the very get-go, as well as ensuring that you bring in the right resources."
-- Brian Thomas, Porter Novelli, VP
Instead of promoting its products individually, Hewlett-Packard sought to build buzz about the "mobile lifestyle," putting its entire suite of wireless products at the forefront of consumers' minds across those international regions that have large wireless markets. The company teamed with Porter Novelli for a blitz-style, one-week worldwide campaign to celebrate the mobile lifestyle, and put "mobility products" like notebook computers, printers, and tablet PCs in the hands of potential customers.
PN and HP specifically designed the campaign in such a way that it would not have to be significantly altered to suit different markets. Its street-level tactics and execution were well-suited to all of the participating cities, which were selected partly for their friendly civic embraces of wireless technology.
"We wanted a program and a campaign that could be rolled out on a global basis," says HP's worldwide PR manager, Mike Hockey. "The messaging would be [similar] ... whether San Diego or Sydney."
This past April, PN brought together a global team from Latin America, Europe, and the US. The firm started with a pilot program in Amsterdam, whose citywide wi-fi grid makes it one of the most technologically forward-thinking cities in Europe. The campaign moved on to five US cities early this month, and spread to Australia by the end of the month. "It was just bringing that product experience to consumers around the world," says Brian Thomas, a VP at PN in San Francisco.
In each US city - from Raleigh, NC, to San Diego, and those in between - six teams hit the streets to demonstrate HP products at popular wi-fi hot spots and gathering places.
"[We are] giving people the touch and feel for what mobility does, and how mobility can enhance your life," says Hockey. The company is also running radio promotional campaigns in each market simultaneously, and its street teams are collecting consumer information with quick surveys for immediate feedback. That also drives traffic to HP's mobile website, which is running a worldwide sweepstakes.
Preliminary results lead PN to estimate that the street-level element of the campaign would attract 25,000 consumers in the US alone, many of whom would get the chance to actually handle the products. "That's what's so valuable here," Thomas says. "It's all experiential marketing, but it's that one-to-one engagement experience with consumers."