MI6 conference emphasizes style as much as substance

Inaugural marketing-in-games summit kicks off in San Francisco with help from Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.

SAN FRANCISCO--In a season rife with game-industry conferences covering the medium from every perspective, the inaugural MI6 conference stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to production values. Of course, that emphasis on how the event is presented should be expected, considering it's the one conference put on by game marketers, for game marketers.

Between the inflatable blimps, suspended lighting rigs cycling colored spotlights around the room, booming sound system, and giant screens alternately showing commercials, presenters, and PowerPoint presentations, it felt as much like an awards show as a straight-faced communal examination of the issues affecting a key component of the gaming industry. The thumping intro music for the speakers didn't hurt, either.

The conference planners even went out of their way to get some celebrity appeal. Kicking the event off Tuesday afternoon was a brief, taped introduction by Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. After chastising the crowd for helping promote evils such as violence, sex, and evolution ("I'm talking to you, Spore!"), Colbert asked for help shilling his own proposed game, World of Colbertcraft, and asked everyone to enjoy the conference.

The first presentation of the event was handled by Chris Di Cesare, director of Xbox marketing, who used his half-hour slot to talk about the changing advertising market and the ways in which Microsoft's Halo 2 and Xbox 360 launch campaigns took advantage of them. The brunt of Di Cesare's message was that the world of advertising is undergoing a massive change.

"What it all comes down to is control," Di Cesare said. "There is unprecedented power to decide what, when, and how consumers view things. The old consumers, they used to be an easy target for marketers to push messages."

Technology such as digital video recorders and the Internet have changed the market fundamentally, according to Di Cesare, and marketers need to embrace that change. He suggests that the old way of thinking that held a 30-second commercial spot on prime-time TV as the end-all, be-all needs to change and be supplemented by more alternative marketing techniques.

He mentioned numerous advertising campaigns that engaged viewers with the brand in new ways. Burger King's "Subservient Chicken" campaign, in which visitors to a Web site could type in commands for a person in a chicken suit to carry out, was one such example, with another being New Line Cinema's promotion for the upcoming Samuel L. Jackson film Snakes on a Plane. Di Cesare noted that once an audience had unexpectedly embraced the film based on little more than its title and star, New Line Cinema shot new footage to make the film fall more in line with fan expectations. It also has been encouraging fan-made trailers and other content that engages the audience in the promotion of the film.

As for his own efforts, Di Cesare explained the thinking behind Microsoft's promotional efforts for Halo 2 and the Xbox 360 launch.

"The overall strategy we used was something we called, 'Feed the core, captivate the masses,'" Di Cesare said.

For the Xbox 360, the Zero Hour launch event was designed to stir the hardcore market, while the MTV half-hour special that unveiled the system aimed for a much broader appeal. As far as Halo 2, the infamous ilovebees campaign certainly generated buzz among core gamers, while the company attempted to generate a perception around the game's launch that it was a blockbuster event to interest the masses.

Even though Microsoft designed ilovebees to capture the interest of the core market, it took off to such a degree that coverage of the campaign spilled out into mainstream media such as The New York Times. A similar pattern emerged with the Hex168 promotion for the Zero Hour event, where more than 56,000 gamers had to decode Web sites to figure out how to even enter a contest, 3,000 winners of which would be invited to an Xbox 360 launch event. However, it was still up to the winners to find their own way to the event, which was held in a remote location in the Mojave desert.

"What we thought would be really interesting about this were the many human interest stories that resulted from people moving across countries to be at the event," Di Cesare said.

One such story involved a man in Sweden who won two passes to the event but had no way to get there. He managed to trade his second pass to a man in Texas in exchange for airfare to the United States. Once the winner landed in Texas, he and the stranger who brought him to this country set off on a road trip to Zero Hour. Another story involved the first two gamers on the scene, a pair of gamers from Mississippi who got there a day early and wound up being covered by 20 news outlets.

"No longer is it a model about viewing ad impressions," Di Cesare said. "It's about entertaining and engaging. And as long as you have a focus for your product, then you can understand what consumers want and apply some of the practices that I've outlined."

At that point, Di Cesare thanked the audience and left the stage while music blared once again. No sooner was he out of view than the next presenter was being introduced and the conference rolled on. MI6 is scheduled to keep rolling in that fashion until Wednesday night, when presentations by Spore designer Will Wright and famed horror film director Wes Craven lead into the MI6 Achievement Awards, hosted by Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb of X-Play.

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Discussion

41 comments
Ponsardin
Ponsardin

World of Colbertcraft? Sounds funny, but this is the first time when I heard of Stephen Colbert.

Blazer88
Blazer88

Normally I find him pretty funny but that White House appearance by Stephen Colbert was about as unfunny as gets.

rbzaczek
rbzaczek

Advertising has nothing to do with it, games have been advertising themselves for about 4 console generations in that way. In terms of World of Colbertcraft, it might actually be more interesting than almost all games on the forefront market at this point.

Volothamp86
Volothamp86

I wonder why he didn't joke about this on the Report

Double_Zeta
Double_Zeta

World of Colbertcraft? Sounds extreme. I'd play it.

Iriseon
Iriseon

Colbercraft? Is that the mean-spirited & disingenious game where you mock your enemies so distastefully & shamelessly they become the protagonists? Emotional satisfaction tastes great, less filling.... Advertisements don't have to be blatantly opaque or discursively transparent to create interest and generate revenue. It's all a matter of taste and tact, style and spread i.e. Fight Night Round 3 interweaves Burger King ads well but overplays their spread. The old ways of traditional advertising are atavistic models which manage to arguably spend more of their budget than necessary. Case in point: MI6. The best way to advertise games is still in the plethora of video game media outlets such as GameSpot & magazines. The marketing of products within games is inevitable as the money men greedily eye the footprint of the industry and the demographic it attracts. You can run, but you can't hide.

buzzoinks
buzzoinks

colbercraft was in full effect at the whitehouse press dinner!

buzzoinks
buzzoinks

I don't really like viral marketing either

terdoo
terdoo

colbertcraft should be good :lol:

pgoeleven
pgoeleven

I hate those viral marketing campaigns. It's like "we're too lazy and cheap to do a proper ad, here you do all the work for us". But of course there's plenty of suckers who fall for it.

AYANE69
AYANE69

this is all very interesting

troakun
troakun

I'm begining to wonder if Colbert has a clone, I mean it seems he is everywhere these days.

paradyme777
paradyme777

World of Colbertcraft haha clever. Interesting, very interesting.

shibipocanibo
shibipocanibo

I wonder how Microsoft will advertise its new campaign, "project: take over the world and then sell it at 1000% mark-ups." Once it establishes itself in the communication industry, kills Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and all local phone companies, I'm betting on a world-wide domination oriented business philosophy. As opposed to its current, "Settle for the U.S. & Europe" motto. Hmm.

VGMusicFreak
VGMusicFreak

i dont need advertising. The niche games that i play arent going to get the crazy add campaigns anyway and instead ill be forced to scour the game sites finding every little tiny piece of information that never makes it on the main page. I really doubt we are going to see atlus doing a crazy huge add campaign for contact, deep labyrinth, super robot taisen original generation, or summon night:swordcraft story.

rbarahona
rbarahona

Since the days of the N64, in which they advertised some games with fake websites and things like that (probably not the first ones, but the first ones I was aware of) marketing has gone a long way. Because companies are spending more and more money in marketing it makes sense that they want to spend that money in a smart way. We, as consumers, are more demanding, not just for the quality of the games, but the marketing for those games. We like to see great advertisements (printed or in movies or T.V.) and that's why, IMO, they are trying to come up with new ideas about how to advertise a game.

OdinDragoonX
OdinDragoonX

Colbert is one funny man, one of my fav shows on CC

Flan_Man
Flan_Man

M can be quite snippy to 007 but.... oh, THAT MI6. From what I've heard the M-16 jams up frequently... oh, Mi6. Well, crap. Ad campaigns which play out as a game? Hmmm...

ghsacidman
ghsacidman

20th, YES!!!! What does it matter being first???? Anyway, ads in games should never be used, period. When all games have ads, is when I stop gaming.

JoeyHawk
JoeyHawk

I'd play World of Colbertcraft.

denawayne
denawayne

Why because MS doesn't make enough money already.

jaefrmbk2k
jaefrmbk2k

no disrespect but you guys disgust me

denawayne
denawayne

Maybe they'll tie in marketing with Xbox achievements and for a reward your 360 spits out 2 for 1 coupons.

o_sausage
o_sausage

ohh it already happened?? didn't read the whole thing

o_sausage
o_sausage

Stephen Colbert is hilarious he kicked off some big whitehouse meeting and it was great hope it's the same here :D

ReyWing
ReyWing

Morgan Webb is a hotty =D And I'd like to go to MI6 sometime. Sounds like a great conference.

Donkeljohn
Donkeljohn

I wish I was there. :-( Marketing is so much fun. The segmenting, the positioning, the branding. . . *cries*

Erebus
Erebus

Sony Presents A Chicken Tender Crisp Bacon Chedder Ranch Production Chicken: Bock.... Bock! BOCK!!!!!!!! -_-sound of sharp, metal, object piercing chicken beak-_- The Adventures of His Majesty in.... Burger King: Crown Wars "Live the epic adventure of a king and fulfil your dream of becoming the greatest burger of all-time! Recruit lettuce, pickles, and even other meat products to help you achieve your destiny! Face-off against intelligent chicken AI, do battle with bread, and protect the King from evil abounds!" Preorder now.

denawayne
denawayne

This Head Shot brought to you by (insert brand name).

Phazevariance
Phazevariance

I can just see it, 10 years from now, movies and games are so cluttered with in game/movie product placement that it just destroys the fun of watching/playing it.

kai05
kai05

i thought MI6 was the UK's version of the CIA..meh anyways good deal on the info

gmrscore-addict
gmrscore-addict

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

haitzz
haitzz

World of Colbertcraft has potential lol 2nd

IAmLostWhatAreU
IAmLostWhatAreU

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

RuroKen4Life
RuroKen4Life

1st!! Anyway I would play World of Colbertcraft.