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In 2007 while the xbox 360 was just starting to take off in sales two years after its debut, the “Believe” ad campaign was launched, ready for the final two weeks before the release of the video game Halo 3. With a budget of 10 million US dollars, the campaign featured 5 commercials, four of which shot in one style and one in another. To give some brief insight before explaining the commercials, Halo is basically a video game popular with children as young as 12 and adults as old as 25 to 30 (typically). The series revolves around a war between aliens and humans, with one distinct human protagonist known as “Master Chief”. With that out of the way, down to the ads. These ads were commissioned by the Microsoft owned game development company Bungie, aimed at appealing to the target audience’s desire to both “finish the fight” (experience the next installment of the trilogy’s story), and to take on the role of one of the most idolized video game heros to date. By building up such elaborate war stories and action packed scenes for the commercials, Bungie’s intent was to entice viewers to fill the shoes of the brave war hero Master Chief. While the diorama ad lays out a scene of chaos and brutality with Chief as a tangible gleaming beacon of hope, the live action ads paint a mental image of a time honored veteran, who is clearly being memorialized, having never been found. If Bungie wanted to captivate a wide audience of story lovers, action junkies, and science fiction nerds, they definitely hit the nail on that market’s head, because this campaign was a phenomenal success.
Halo, taking a firm grasp of the video game market with its first installment in 2001 and its sequel in 2004, appealed to both a relatively young and old audience. Though the game was marked and branded for ages 17+, these ESRB restrictions never hindered the young minds of children such as myself from idolizing and flocking to this action packed science fiction universe. A big armored space marine who fights aliens and talks with a deep voice? It might as well have been the comic book era again, because I know for a fact that when I played Halo 2 for the first time at age 10, that was what me and all my friends wanted to be. So it can be approached from that perspective, or it can be approached from yet another angle. The game had a pre-existing fanbase from its previous two installments, going as far back as 6 years prior. This means that by the time Halo 3 came out, there were players who were, at the very least, 17 when the first installment of the franchise hit shelves in 2001. Follow those gamers up to the third installment, and you have people who could be well into their mid to late 20’s who are eager to pick up this new game. This means that the ads are now being spread across an audience of early teens to adults under the age of 30, which may share the same taste in game, but appreciate different gameplay elements. So, one ad is created with a very childlike appeal to explosions and carefully molded alien models, while another is created to appeal to the heroism and lust for rich story in a young adult. Sometimes, they would even overlap, giving a live action spot a chance to show off some old weapon replicas or a scarred-over war wound from a battle many years prior, or by carefully crafting the agony and genuine emotion of a battle into a diorama. There was room for a basic divide between childlike simplicity and mature complexity- something which the series is often overlooked for. For Halo 3, the audience was not fine tuned to one target demographic, it feature a little taste of the best of both worlds, and it did its job well in both regards.
The ad, “Believe” which was the most expensive and most shown, was a smashing success on television and online. This one is a minute long slow walkthrough of a moment frozen in time. It is a hyper realistic diorama of a single moment in a battle the game would feature, taking time to slowly focus on several soldiers, moments of actions, anguish, heroism, and so on. The final shot of the ad is a little inspirational shot of the protagonist, and ends with the white on black text saying “Believe”. The ad played alongside four others. The other four were a different type of execution, but still put the same point across. They were minute long excerpts of live action interviews with “veterans” of the war taking place in the game. They give brief backstory to events in the game, and every one of them ends in a story or remark about the game’s protagonist. One, for example, walks the viewer through a museum devoted to the Human-Covenant war with a veteran. The man speaks in myths and legends, idolizing the Master Chief’s heroism in the fight while idly fidgeting with an old alien weapon, claiming it feels “uncomfortable” to hold an enemy weapon. Others, like “Ambush” tell a story by moonlight about when a squad was stuck in a foxhole, waiting for the Master Chief to come to their aid. Again, capitalizing on the militaristic appeal and adventurous appeal for young adults. These four ads are a play on what are called glittering generalities- making use of patriotism, freedom, valour, and so on to help assure the viewers that these tales are of the utmost honor. While they may be fictional, it fails to detract from the adventurous spirited desire to take on this character’s role. The diorama, in fact, makes use of emotional appeal- tugging at the heartstrings of viewers as the scene shows heartfelt tragedy after tragedy. The goal behind all of these ads appears to have been both obviously sell the game, and to keep the lore enriched and intimate with the fans of the series. By seeing such honorable and revering tales being told of the character you play as, the player feels more compelled to play the game- to step foot in the shoes of someone held up on such a high pedestal. Everyone likes to be a hero, and these ads knew just who and what they were catering to: young adults with a fantasy for saving the world.
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