CAMPAIGN: NDL plays to game developers for the rebirth of its brand

PR Team: NDL (Chapel Hill, NC) and Capital Strategies (Raleigh, NC) Campaign: Relaunch of NDL game engine as GameBryo Time Frame: September 2002 - March 2003 Budget: Under $200,000

PR Team: NDL (Chapel Hill, NC) and Capital Strategies (Raleigh, NC) Campaign: Relaunch of NDL game engine as GameBryo Time Frame: September 2002 - March 2003 Budget: Under $200,000

While the video-game industry as a whole has a very high profile, the challenge for software company NDL was that it works in a very finite portion of that business: providing tools known as "middleware" to the developers that make the games. When NDL turned to Capital Strategies for help, it was not looking for a splash in the general-interest press, but rather a targeted campaign focusing on raising its profile during the key Game Developers Conference in San Jose,CA. "We had done some small PR in the past, but we'd never done anything related to branding before or coordinated our PR with our marketing," says John Austin, CEO of NDL. Strategy Because of a limited budget, Capital Strategies SAE Bennett Hazlip says, "This wasn't a project where we could go to [the conference] and own the event. NDL wanting to know how we were going to reestablish this product when they were being outspent by major competitors." Capital Strategies realized that even though this was a b-to-b PR effort, the campaign needed much of the look and feel of a youth-centric consumer campaign. "The developers, groups of artists, and engineers we were trying to hit tend to be 21 to 35 and very hip, and that's what we were shooting for," says Hazlip. Tactics The first step was to change the name of NDL's product from NetImmerse to GameBryo. The agency then designed a media kit and other promotional materials to reflect the new image, including the creation of an innovative X-ray logo. "We had to be careful with money, so we have a veterinarian friend and got access to an X-ray machine, and went and X-rayed toys one afternoon," says Hazlip. To build momentum heading into the conference, Hazlip partnered with another PR firm, Clear Image, on some advance work tied to a teaser ad campaign running in several trade magazines in February. He then met with NDL employees to make sure they understood how to stay on message while manning the company's booth during the event. "John [Austin] is a big believer in having his engineers on hand to explain the product," says Hazlip. "But many of these guys are skeptical about marketing and PR, so I got in there and reminded them that when they talked about GameBryo, they had to talk about flexibility and freedom, and letting developers do what they want." Results While the campaign was not primarily focused on media outreach, NDL's relaunch under the new GameBryo brand was covered in targeted magazines such as Game Developer and Develop, as well as the game-centric websites GameSpy, Gamasutra, and Adrenaline Vault. The effort also generated local coverage in the Raleigh News & Observer and the area's TechWire. More importantly, NDL was able to get a large crowd to its product demonstrations on the show floor, as well as drive developers to the company's Gamebryo.com website, both of which have led to increased sales and a series of new leads. Future NDL continued the relaunch by showcasing GameBryo at the Electronic Entertainment Expo game conference in Los Angeles in May. Austin said the company is still working with Capital Strategies and is expanding its PR efforts to include the consumer video game press. "While our customer is not the 16-year-old kid playing Unreal Tournament, almost all game developers are gamers as well," he says. "So what we're doing with [Capital Strategies] is make sure that people know that hit titles like Dark Age of Camelot and Marrowind are using technology from NDL to make those games great."

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