I was watching American Idol with my family (don’t judge me) and all of a sudden I looked up to see Sonic the Hedgehog on screen. He was running around acting like Sonic, but something felt different. He was in a sterile white room devoid of any true color and standing with him is Flo from Progressive. Once he ran through the Progressive logo like it was Sega’s, it all came crushing down on me.
Sonic just tried to sell me insurance.
I didn’t really know how to feel about this. Obviously we have one of gaming’s icons reduced to selling other people’s products, and that’s just unsettling. However, the reason it is so unnerving is because it really is a rare occurance to see something like this. It’s pandering to our demographic obviously and to have Progressive Casualty Insurance Company making light of that does not sit well.
Then I watched it again. Again and again I watched until I really thought about what this is. This isn’t a good Progressive Commercial. There isn’t anything here that’s really compelling me to call my agent and get a quote. It doesn’t carry the wit that Flo usually brings and it certainly doesn’t have the flash Sonic does.
What I realized though is that I actually didn’t mind it. It’s obviously pandering. I mean c’mon, the people that played Sonic as kids are that demographic for Flo right now and Progressive pulled the trigger on them. Ultimately it just needed to be a better commercial.
A market like video games is rife with potential. It consumes the major key demographic for advertisers and it’s a medium with many different creative avenues to attack. Most importantly, it is an industry that has skyrocketed in popularity year over year. We are starting to see this push more and more as companies like Activision are pairing with Jeep to sell us Modern Warfare 3. However, the things that are keeping in my mind, aren’t always the ones that make sense.
I’m actually more surprised by how much I want to see more of this kinda stuff than anything else. I had fun watching someone like Nathan Drake try to sell me a sandwich. It’s stupid, obviously but it doesn’t hurt the brand. I don’t think any gamers out there were turned off from Uncharted 3 because they sold out to Subway. People went and got their beta keys (and footlongs) from Subway and Sony was able to profit off a unique advertising campaign. At its very worst, it made me want a sandwich. At its best, we all got to see something new from one of our favorite gaming icons.
I want to see a character like Aya Brea in an ad for Old Navy. I want to see Duke Nukem selling me Bud Light. Heck, I want to see Mario selling State Farm, just to start that rivalry with Sonic back up. The industry has been struggling for years to figure out how to push in game advertising for their product, but what about the other way around? Games advertise their products by themselves and we have a ton of media outlets to do it with. Let’s see what can happen when major companies cross promote.
We see comics, films, and TV shows cross promote with major advertisers constantly. Where are our games? Coca-cola ran a brilliant commercial spoofing Grand Theft Auto a few years back. It hit the market and was extremely well received. I think we’re all more than ready for more of this.
Companies are already spending their cash trying to make games for the marketplace with Doritos, Old Spice, and Toyota all making a splash on Xbox. I might be alone, but I have no qualms with these games. I had no problem with advertising based DLC like the UnKut clothing packs of Saints Row or the Discovery Channel’s Multiplayer Map Pack for Gears of War. I get free stuff and they get to enter my home with a game called Yaris.
Bringing more ad revenue raises the profitability and awareness of the games industry. Use a franchise like Forza to sell Nissan and get us some extra bonus content for that. In return, the industry needs to utilize these partnerships better. We should be using Nissan to sell Forza. If Rovio can do everything they did with Angry Birds, Rayman and many others in the industry can.
There are so many untapped avenues to raise advertising revenue in gaming. In an industry that is becoming increasingly harder to create profitability with higher production values, why not throw your mascot in a commercial for car insurance? I certainly got a kick out of it. Just try and make it a bit better Progressive. Lose the blonde and give Sonic the respect he really deserves.