Top 10 Worst & Best PlayStation Advertisements [From PS Fanboy]

TOP TEN WORST PLAYSTATIONS ADS



Over the past few years, Sony's controversial attempts at viral marketing for the PlayStation brand were not well-received by the general public. The company had been criticized on numerous occasions for various failed ad campaigns. Campaigns which didn't just fail to hit their target markets, but more importantly had an adverse effect leaving many people angry, rebellious, or just plain dumbfounded. A good example of one of these wrongfully done ads is the recent image of a naked man and his literal eleventh finger promoting the PlayStation 3. Just take a look at the universal heat this drew in.

This recent controversy rekindled the memory of all the horrible ads that have appeared in promotion for both the PS3 and the PlayStation Portable. But, it hasn't always been this bad. The general consensus on PlayStation One and PlayStation 2 ads were favorable; however, as 2006 rolled in with the PSP already under fire and the PS3 on the way, a new direction was emerging for the corporate giant. Was there such a need to be edgy Sony? You were doing so well.

We had thought the era of Sony's marketing fumbles had ended, but apparently it hasn't. So in honor of the embarrassing and often painful ad campaigns over the past few years, we present this look into the top ten worst PlayStation brand ads ever. We're sure Sony won't be too happy about us digging up old skeletons, but this is history and an interesting one at that. It's also one that's hard to forget. And besides, early next month we'll have a top ten best PlayStation ads list just so we're not being lopsided here. So get clicking, and see what NSFW atrocities we've compiled.

10
. PS2 - Golfers versus porn stars



The PS2 rarely had any controversial ads when compared to the PS3 and the PSP. That's mostly due to the fact that the PS2, including the PS1 preceding it, incorporated tamed conventions in selling their products. However, the PS2 did show signs of an upstart for more experimental marketing in Sony's games division. Take this questionable ad for example; it's an absurd PlayStation take on Geico-like juxtaposition. This commercial pretends that the PS2 is a wildlife territory where porn stars prey on unsuspecting golfers. Right, and we're the Pope. Scratch that; he won't approve of that comment ... and he especially won't agree with the ad you'll be seeing next.


9. PSP/PS2 - Passion of the PlayStation



Celebrating ten years of PlayStation in 2005, Sony had this religious flame-bait ad made for Italian print publications. The original Italian text "Dieci anni di passione" translates to "Ten years of passion." The image of the man and the short text are seemingly inoffensive at first; however, when paired with the crown of thorns, the meaning changes entirely. Obviously, "the passion" is a reference to the film The Passion of the Christ which came out the year before, and this associated message generated the idea that PlayStation is, to put it bluntly, Jesus.

The ad struck a chord with devout Christians, infuriated religious groups, and even had the Vatican ready to exercise its excommunication powers. Charged with blasphemy, Sony promptly pulled their ads. Fortunate for Sony, the company pulled the ads before they could feel any real backlash from disgruntled Christians. The next marketing campaign, however, wasn't so lucky.

8. The perplexity of UK PSP ads



British commuters probably remember seeing these confusing early 2006 PSP posters plastered around train stations, buses, and the London Tube. The one advertisement pictured here, which reads "Your girlfriend's white bits here," has been interpreted as sexist due to the vagueness of the words and the lack of an image to bring the thought around full circle. Even worse, was this ad suggesting one should "Take a running jump from here." Alone, the ad doesn't sound so bad; however, when you put the suggestive slogan prominently at train station platforms ... then there's something amiss.

Other such posters read "Strong language and scenes of a sexual nature here" and "Saucy emails won't get you fired here." The randomness of the words never gave passersby a clue that these ads were, in fact, referring to the PSP's functions: store photos (white bits), gaming (jump), movies (scenes) , and web browsing (saucy emails). Of course, that understanding only became crystal after an explanation.

Despite receiving 45 public complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority didn't ban the ads. And while the campaign was controversial, it certainly didn't compare in disruption magnitude as another European PSP ad that would appear months later (and a few spots down in this article).

7. PSP - Graffiti fiasco



Sony's graffiti art advertisement campaign started appearing in major cities all across the United States back in 2005. As you can see from the defaced image above, the campaign rubbed many people the wrong way. Why all the hate? For starters, denizens were angry about the unsightly blemish that these ads left on their city landscape. On a deeper level, the fact that a major corporation was in charge of something like this enticed those true artists, who found the whole idea annoyingly ironic, to react. Thirdly, the images themselves could be seen as controversial -- images that depicted hypnotized children hooked on their PSPs. When you put all these thoughts together and attach them to an already boiling animosity towards a wider controversy regarding Sony's DRM practices, then that's when the excrement really hit the fan.

6. City of Lost PlayStation Commercial



This French ad is strange to say the least. Its dark atmosphere and black humor are reminiscent of the French film Cité des enfants perdus (City of Lost Children), but of course that won't come across clearly for everyone. The sexual innuendos are certainly tacked on for French tastes but none of this explains what walking boobies and clown heads in a cannon have to do with the PlayStation brand. As the ad would suggest, these images are the construct or the thoughts of a man who represent PS gamers. It's actually quite insulting to think that the advertisers believe we're all psychotic and perverted.

More strikingly, and more important, can you see the huge difference between this PS2 commercial and the one higher up on this list? It's obvious that from this we can see the machinations of a new breed of PS3 ads to come. This French commercial, while terrible on its own, is made far worse when you realize this is what trumpeted the beginning of the impending PS3 ad apocalypse.

5. PS3 - "Mama" Play Beyond commercial



This Play Beyond commercial featuring a demonic-looking baby doll is one of the creepiest commercials we have ever seen. There's no logical explanation how something as bizarre as this would ever persuade us (let alone anyone) to want a PS3 -- and we're the ones who've bought systems, love it to this very day, and have made it our preferred console of choice. With that said, imagine what all those casual-gaming baseball fans were thinking when they first saw this. Imagine rooms full of beer buddies or baseball families with children sitting around the tube waiting for the game to come back on -- but instead of watching the next pitch, there's silence as this commercial plays. A collective "WTF" is felt across the nation.


4. PS3 - If "This is Living" I'd rather be dead



The confusing "This is Living" commercials from around Europe's PS3 launch last year were probably the most pretentious marketing campaign that Sony has ever done. At the time, the internet was buzzing with news about these horrible ads, yet, these ads completely failed to do their job -- move console units into homes. We chock it up to the nonsense imagery of bald guys in tubs, tap dancing hotel managers, and cute blondes on toilets which, on their own, left little for people to make associations with the PlayStation brand. Even more so, when these eccentric characters opened their mouths to speak ambiguously metaphoric lines, that's when any sense of rationality was thrown right out the window, along with sanity, and the will to live.

Now, this campaign bore a resemblance to a previous commercial done for the PS2 titled "Double Life." This old PS2 commercial was actually good and made quite a lot of sense. So why did "This is Living" fail where "Double Life" succeeded? The major difference between the two campaigns is that the latter PS2 ad didn't solely rely on pseudo-artistry and obscurity to confuse people into buying the product. It spoke directly about what happens when you play a PlayStation game and clearly took that other world as a metaphor for life itself. What was "This is Living" about? Absolutely nothing. But even then, some Sony ads about nothing have worked. This one just doesn't.


3. PS3 - Thumb-Penis ... because sex sells, duh



Ah, this one. It's the Austrian ad that took a man's livelihood and replaced it with his thumb for apparently no reason other than for the sake of "irreverence." Interestingly enough, this thumb-penis ad is also what inspired us to write up this feature. And because of that, it would be a shame to place this completely pointless, confusing, and incredibly ugly advertisement anywhere than a less respectable spot. Pun intended.

By now, you've probably already seen this TBWA\Wien creation, and the image has most likely given you night after horrific night of sleeplessness. Though we know you'd rather not see this man's deformed junk again, here it is one last time before you're compelled to gouge your eyes out. What is being accomplished here is an enigma; however, we do know it sure got people talking. If only Freud was around to explain things, then perhaps this might not have been a disaster.

2. PSP - Controversial "racist" billboards



Without a doubt, just one look at this billboard and you can clearly see what the whole commotion was all about. This ad from Holland sparked scores of controversy way back in 2006. While the various images of this ad campaign were certainly not intended to be racist, they definitely did very little to give people any reason not to interpret it that way. The fault here rested in Sony's naivety to have not thought that people would associate these images of human beings with historical sensitivities rather than the lifeless machines they're supposed to portray.

Sony defended their campaign as "clever marketing" but ultimately pulled the campaign out completely. Sure, it was clever to use powerful and provocative images like this as a metaphor for the PSP's color schemes, but it doesn't mean that it was tasteful. Just one tip, marketing/advertising isn't just about how clever you make your ads; what matters most is how people understand it and act upon it. Try to figure that out Sony, and then maybe this feature wouldn't have existed.


1. PSP - "All I want for Xmas is a PSP" Flog



The absolute worst marketing blunder ever done by Sony was the "All I want for Xmas is a PSP" flog from the holiday season of 2006. The reason why this one reigns supreme as the worst is because this was the most insulting to consumer intelligence. The idea of the flog itself was to pose as two regular Joe's (Charlie & Jeremy) who post amateur videos and supposedly personal writings in an attempt to get Jeremy's parents to buy the "teen" a PSP for Christmas. However, not a shred of content on the site was real (including some faked visitor comments); the flog was a complete lie and undermined consumer trust as the site was registered and run by viral marketer Zipatoni. When the jig was up, the internet was ablaze with both shock and disgust.

The aftermath? Well, within the same month that the "All I want for Xmas" flog went down, the Federal Trade Commission started to finally take notice of the issue on unethical marketing tactics endorsed by Sony and other alike corporate giants. From then on, it was necessary for companies to fully disclose any viral campaign plans. This campaign was so bad and ill-received that Sony won an award beating out McDonald's and Walmart for "Best flog of 2006."

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TOP TEN BEST PLAYSTATION ADS




Perhaps our previous feature on the ten worst PlayStation ads has left you with sleepless nights? We apologize for any bodily harm or psychological damage we may have caused you. You just need to remember that the history of PlayStation ads and campaigns is rich and rife with content. Sometimes these ads can be undeniable hits ... and sometimes they can be wayward misses. You just have to learn to take the good with the bad.

Like we promised, we're now presenting our top ten best PlayStation brand ads to balance out our previous feature. Are these good ones as memorable as the awful ones? Or are they not shocking enough to deserve your attention? You'll find out soon, won't you?

10. PS3 - Universe of Entertainment



November 2, 2007 signaled a whole new direction for our beloved PlayStation 3. We saw hardware revisions for the launching of the 40 GB SKU, the introduction of a new low price point, and the re-imaging of the console. Holiday season 2007 was a huge turn around seeing success in multiple markets. There were a lot of factors in making this positive change happen; however, without a doubt, a big part of this success was attributed to the re-imaging that was achieved with a new ad campaign.

That campaign brought forth the "Universe of Entertainment" and "Play On" television spots by Superfad for agency TBWA \ Chiat \ Day. Senior vice president of marketing & PlayStation Network, Peter Dille, had said about the new campaign: "we wanted to move beyond ... with a more high-energy, entertainment driven focus for the PS3. The games are here ... and we wanted to make the news loud and clear." Indeed, the message was both loud and clear as stylish visuals blended in with the no-frills promotions for Blu-ray, PSN, and, most of all, the games.

However, looking back, perhaps these commercials are not necessarily "top ten" material on their own merit. What boosts these TV spots onto this list is the context in which we first saw them -- as a breath of fresh air after being smothered with flop marketing. It was like a light going off in people's heads, "Oh, so that's what they've been trying to tell me all along."


9. PS2 - Mountain



Trevor Beattie, then with TBWA London, and Frank Budgen of Gorgeous Enterprises created this memorable UK commercial as part of the "Fun, Anyone?" campaign back in 2003. The TV spot begins vaguely with random people rushing towards some sort of happening; meanwhile, a classic song made famous by Shirley Temple plays out subtly narrating the event -- hordes of people form a human mountain and jock for the top position. Now, it isn't entirely clear that this ad is for the PS2, not until the very end and the copy text pops up; however, that's probably where this advertisement draws its strength.

The initial ambiguity of watching people flock towards something unknown taps into instinctual human curiosity. This opens up the ad to everyone as it's not clear what is being advertised here (and therefore not segmenting the audience), yet it's clear that something big is happening. Its powerful and beautiful images have an air of mystery that drove viewers to watch until the very end, and that's when the full idea comes around. PlayStation 2 is that "train," that "mountain" that people flock to; it's a phenomenon that is fun and competitive. All these themes are shown here and are clearly what all 120+ million of us PS2 owners can empathize with.

8. PS2/PSP - Bubble wrap bus stop



This was an interesting and mildly seen advertisement from Malaysia back in 2005. While small in scope and not particularly impactful on the industry, this unconventional approach did provide a very clever and unique way to get products into the minds of potential consumers. What we're seeing here, at first glance, is a relatively inconspicuous bus stop with a plain PlayStation 2 logo adorning the rooftop. Upon further inspection, however, we can see billboards lined with PlayStation-themed bubble wrap.

The idea was to play on people's obsessive compulsion to pop bubble wrap (you know as well as we do that we're all guilty of popping a few now and then), turn them away from the boredom of waiting for the bus, and subliminally reminding them of fun times on the PlayStation 2. We say "reminding them" because, let's face it, by this point in time everyone and their neighbor had a PS2. So why then were they advertising for the PS2 when it was so widely known and successful? Here's the thing; it's not for PS2, but for the PlayStation Portable. Hear us out.

The bubble wrap was an allegory for PlayStation gaming used to propagate the message "have fun in even the most boring places," while the PlayStation 2 logo is used as a familiar reference point for people to associate with the PlayStation brand. This makes people who see future PSP ads more inclined to feel attracted to the product because they already have somewhat of an understanding of what it could mean for them. What makes this ad so great is that it is so complex, yet is presented in such a simple manner that anyone experiencing it can pick up on the messages.


7. PSP - Find Me



Now before you shake your head in disapproval of this one making the list, try to understand that this particular ad was not directed towards the core gaming crowd. This was meant to draw in the casual gamers and showcase the non-gaming aspects of the PSP. Peter Dille again explains "These marketing initiatives deliver the broader PSP brand message ..." and would you believe, this appeal to the casual crowd has been working well in Sony's favor.

The commercial follows a romanticized story about a boy who must track down this girl using only clues left to him on his memory stick and PSP. He starts searching for the girl using photos and videos stored on his memory stick and what unfolds is this adventure that plays around with human emotions and brings something as mechanical as the PSP closer to human sensibilities. The only fault we can find with this commercial would be the song choice, which doesn't really add anything to the theme and does feel out of place. Other than that, it was an excellent ad.

6. PSP - Divine Comedy



This is yet another interesting small scale marketing campaign that Sony did. The campaign appeared around July last year; it gave students an amusing solution to classroom tedium by allowing them to hide their PSPs behind disguised cutouts of Dante's Divine Comedy. On the backside, there are photo instructions showing how to use the disguise during a lecture, while a CliffNotes summary on the classic poem is provided to save students from surprise questions that may come their way.

Fortunately, the concept here was too absurd to actually be used in class so the campaign was seen as harmless and wouldn't actually cause a mass student dumbification. Comical, light-hearted -- the positive connotations showed people the fun, intelligent, and (read: tastefully) naughty side of PSP.

If you want to have one of these, perhaps it's too late to have a real one. You could, however, print out a makeshift copy out of this almost life-sized picture.

5. PSP - Dude, Get Your Own



The "Dude, Get Your Own" campaign was set to rekindle interest in the PSP from early 2007 onward, and was used to spread the word on the new price cut. The campaign was a fresh line of hilarious commercials (link to high quality clips of all of them right here) which followed the story of two guys on a plane. One of them has a PSP, while the other doesn't and constantly tries to butt in on the former's game time. What makes these spots so entertaining is that it is very much possible to have this uncomfortable situation happen to you (or, for you to curse upon someone else).

It's that real world experience that viewers can draw from that makes this ad work. It was a smartly played move that emphasized the need to "get your own." And of course, the ad sealed the thought with an appealing reminder that the PSP was now more affordable; what better time to pick one up than then?


4. Multiple - PlayStation Software



Gamers everywhere know how great ads and commercials for exclusive PlayStation software are. From the very beginning, back when Crash Bandicoot was still a PS-exclusive, Crash TV spots were already turning heads and capturing hearts. However, Crash is no longer the PlayStation mascot he used to be.

The torch has been passed on to another successor: Ratchet & Clank. You can see all those commercials in the clip above, and make sure you watch them to the very end as they get progressively better. What makes these spots so good is that it's an interesting mix of game fantasy, a flirtation with Jackass-like antics, and a postmodern commentary on YouTube generation self-filming. The juxtaposition of fictional gadgets used in the real world were received as both clever and humorous.

Some other interesting software ads include the Japanese spots for echochrome and more American spots for MLB 07: The Show.

3. PS/PS2 - Powerful Slogans



The majority of PlayStation print ads are not as memorable as their television counterparts. Television can appeal to the eyes and ears, but print can only appeal to one sensory perception. That's why perhaps the majority of the ads you've seen today are of the video variety. The collection of ads you're looking at in the picture above are not particularly striking nor are they exceptionally bad. However, the images are not what's important; what's important is the copy. The powerful slogans of "Do Not Underestimate the Power of PlayStation" and "Live in Your World, Play in Ours" are the driving force that have kept the brand alive for two generations.

The "Power of PlayStation" in particular focused on ads that suggested that PlayStation gaming wasn't just for kids but provided an experience that could be appreciated by an older, more mature crowd. As far as we can tell, it worked; no other console has shared the same success that the PSOne and PS2 had. No other consoles have made such leaps into widening the market than what Sony had done -- both the PlayStation and PS2 have sold over 100 million units each. That says a lot.

Even better than that was the "Live in Your World, Play in Ours" ads, which focused on the concept of escapism in gaming. While this one has been around for quite some time, it wasn't until the 2002 restructured campaign that this slogan was used in a prominent manner. The campaign even earned an Effie Award for 2004. Perhaps you may not have remembered the images, but most likely the slogans have left their mark.


2. PS2 - PlayStation 9



The "PlayStation 9" commercial was meant to advertise the PlayStation 2 and coincided with its North American launch back in October 2000. What makes this particular advertisement successful is that it captured the imagination of gamers, communicated a multitude of messages, and all at the same time presented these thoughts in a short and stylish manner. The connotations of future change from one PlayStation generation to the next was a symbolism of the current change at that time -- that the movement from PSOne to PS2 would be an exponentially huge difference.

It also placed into viewers' minds the idea that the brand was only beginning -- that the future would hold much more. It not only showed gamers that innovations would always come with each iteration but also associated with the message of dedication -- that the PlayStation name would be around for that long and will still be making high-quality products. Many gamers loved the commercial; others were confused and are still awaiting the PS9.


1. PS/PS2 - Double Life



Debuting in 1999, this magnificent TV spot from Frank Budgen (same creator as "Mountain" at #9) was widely exalted and critically acclaimed for its romanticized vision of gaming culture. It gave non-gamers intellectual insight into our hobby and industry, and painted the most vivid image of escapism that PlayStation slogans like "Live in Your World, Play in Ours" have been communicating all along. Double Life is the ultimate poetic ode to what the PlayStation brand is at heart.

We're not alone in our love for Double Life. Our good friend Scott Steinberg, author of Videogame Marketing and PR and founder of Embassy Multimedia Consultants shared with us his thoughts: "Pure genius, nothing less... From sheer caliber of script to general casting, dialogue, acoustics, camerawork and striking use of both color and imagery, this promotional spot commands the audience's attention like few other videogame ads – or advertisements, period – that've come before. Epic in scope, yet elegantly capturing every man's desire to transcend the boundaries of mundane life, to this day, the piece remains nothing short of iconic... not to mention instrumental in conveying the PlayStation family's inherent scope and value. Watching for the first time, it's near impossible to take your eyes off the screen, even if, upon reflection, the number of half-naked men and face time they're afforded proves slightly disproportionate... and disturbing. Still, it's quite possibly the first and truest example of modern "pull" vs. "push" game marketing in motion: Regardless if you can appreciate the depth of the prose, or simply prefer the promo's off-kilter sense of humor – seriously, is that a real baby or homicidal Cabbage Patch doll? – it's impossible to peel yourself away."

Being recognized for its excellence, Gorgeous Enterprises and TBWA London have been inducted into the Clio Awards Hall of Fame in 2007. As Double Life becomes immortalized, the opening words will forever replay in our minds: "For years I've lived a double life ..." and we respond: "haven't we all?"

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2 Comments

I would have to say...

PS3. Mainly because of Remote Play, and I just feel better owning a version that I know didn't have any restrictions or anything. That plus the dpad, and trophies which will come via a patch. So yeah, PS3 I suppose.

5 Comments

Fuck Yeah!!!

If the games are good that is, which most likely are, since I don't play shitty games.

So yeah, if a game does get patched for trophies, im going to go enjoy it again and earn the damn things. I mean, just look at Uncharted for example, everyone is playing it now, AGAIN! XD

4 Comments

Well...

Not much, more needs to be added to other things. But how about a section above the images section, something like this;

PSN ID: XXX
Gamertag: XXX
Wii Code: XXX

Simple. Oh and how about being able to have more customizations and what not? We need a lot more.

4 Comments

It's looking good...

We'll see Jeff, we'll see.... I'll be frequent. Oh one thing, can you change the color of the PS3 and Wii tabs, just swap em. :P PS3 = Red not blue, and Wii = blue not red! Thats a good complaint, since I cant find anything else to complain about yet, lol. (oh and swap the DS/PSP colors :-X)

Good luck.

4 Comments