Microsoft admits extremely viral “Gears of War” commercial was unintentional

Gears of WarLast year, one of the greatest games of all time had a commercial of equal status – “Mad World” for Gears of War. Even though the advertisement was undeniably just a well-crafted machinima video, it worked on so many levels. Beautiful cinematography (by Joseph Kosinski who also worked on the Halo 3 ad), touching storyline and the perfect song. Some claim it worked because it was so different to what we were used to in video game commercials – loud gunfights and corny techno-music.

It caught up so well with the enthusiast community that it propelled “Mad World” straight to #1 on the iTunes chart, and sparked a massive remix contest on YouTube. Some replaced the song with other songs of similar style, others took the song and plastered it over other game machinimas. All in all, it was a huge success from a marketing standpoint.

But today, Mich Mathews, Senior Vice President of Central Marketing at Microsoft has come out admitting that they didn’t intend to create the mashup phenomenon it generated. Speaking at the Microsoft Strategic Account Summit, Mich was discussing the effects of building reach through information sharing by the customer. “The ideal campaign may get two times, four times, even ten times more of that reach via pass along and remixing.”

She then used the Gears of War commercial as an example. “We got more than 700 community-created mashups that are being posted on YouTube that have now been viewed over a million times. This type of passionate engagement with the brand we think helped make Gears of War the No. 1-selling videogame last holiday season and, indeed, has helped to make it the fastest selling videogame of all time.”

She then goes on to spill the beans. “Now, one dirty little secret here that I have to confess, we didn’t create this ad for this kind of customer-generated content, and I have to say, though, it’s something certainly now that we factor in when we’re going through that creative process.”

But as the way things are, the more you try the less it will happen again.

11 insightful thoughts

  1. “This type of passionate engagement with the brand”.

    Only a marketing person can talk so robotically about their customers. I say this btw as a marketing person.

  2. I’ve never seen the ad before, and watched it before reading the second sentence of this post. I have to say something made it stand out to me right away. It’s a great commercial.

  3. The speed at which marketing trends turn over is increasing. As consumers get wise to marketing teams that try and plan this as part of their strategy; do they turn off? Is part of the success of this because it was an accident? And Mitch gets paid how much for “accidents”?

  4. Planning for customer engagement does seem to be incredibly cold and calculating. It also seems to miss the point. People didn’t send time on mashups because the saw the commercial and thought “Wow, what a great brand to be associated with”. They contributed the time and effort the did because the commercial resonated with them. In the ad we see a war torn city. We hear the melancholy rendition of ‘Mad World’. Almost inevitably one’s mind draws parallels to our own troubled world. The song and images speak to our own fears and insecurities in a troubled world. Finally, the commercial fades out with the avatar of ourselves firing back at seemingly impossible darkness. What happened? Did he survive?

    Mich can share all the information she wants with the customer. If all that’s there is something more to buy the effort will fail. The information must be an experience that reveals something more about ourselves.

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