Client: SCi (Sales Curve Interactive)
PR Team: Bite Commun-ications
Campaign: Launch of Carmageddon computer game
Timescale: June 1997 - February 1998
Budget: pounds 25,000
The launch of Carmageddon, a hit-and-run computer car game, almost came
unstuck before it started. The British Board of Film Classification
banned it when it learned that players won points by mowing down,
mutilating and killing pedestrians.
’Sickest video game will be in shops by Christmas,’ wrote the Daily Mail
when the ban was overturned five months later last November. In the
middle of this, Bite Communications had to please computer boffins
without annoying the censors in a way that helped SCi make a financial
killing on its game.
To increase sales through maximum media coverage of Carmageddon; portray
SCi as a responsible company by encouraging sensible debate on screen
violence; sustain interest in a game toned down with zombies instead of
human targets after the ban.
Bite began work on the campaign in June, just after the ban. It set up
interviews and distributed expert reports on screen violence, arranged
by SCi. The PR team of three had to keep an iron grip on information
The flurry of publicity made it vital that messages from Bite, SCi and
the experts were consistent.
The team organised TV and radio debates and worked closely with the
national press in the run up to the November appeal. SCi was keen to be
seen as responsible, opening up the debate on game violence. It did this
by playing on issues of censorship.
But SCi, worried that ’gamers’ would think they were cow-towing to the
establishment by switching grannies for zombies, emphasised the
tongue-in-cheek aspect of the game and had national flyposters headed
’Too many pedestrians, so little time’.
Another highlight was a Carmageddon banger race, with a final shock
campaign of posters to keep the game fresh in the mind.
News and reviews focused mainly on the game’s gore content. The
Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Independent on Sunday ran
stories with images.
Time Out, Empire, Loaded, Esquire and Arena followed suit.
BBC Breakfast News, GMTV and Radio 1’s Digital Update picked up the
Games sales are currently 500,000 with between 700 to 1,000 being sold a
Some 30 per cent, pounds 7,500, of the pounds 25,000 budget went on
planning, 60 per cent, pounds 15,000, on implementation and ten per
cent, pounds 2,500, on evaluation.
’The PR campaign worked in that everybody knew it was in the shops, but
did it sell the product?’ says David Hancock, computer games editor for
the Sunday Mirror.
’Using shock tactics is an old PR trick, and as soon as I heard the
rent-a-quote politicians, I guessed it was part of the hype stoked by
PR,’ he added.
Mark Rowe, who reported on the game in the IoS, said he had no direct PR
contact but saw billboard posters. ’We did not react because of
wonderful publicity,’ he said. ’I was not aware of a huge PR hype, yet
the media coverage was still good.’