CAMPAIGNS: PRODUCT LAUNCH - Taking the thrill out of road kill

Client: SCi (Sales Curve Interactive)

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.



Objectives



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.



Tactics



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

flows.



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.



Results



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

story.



Games sales are currently 500,000 with between 700 to 1,000 being sold a

week.



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.



Verdict



’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.’



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