Towards the end of the original Playstation cycle we at Codemasters released what we knew to be a hit game and so we were not unduly surprised when it went to number one in the week of release.
This is what we expected at Codemasters in those days.
However, come week two it had dropped right down the chart. So to rescue the situation they (notice, not ‘we’ — I was not in favour) spent a big lot of money on a TV campaign (they already had the advert prepared).
The next week the game dropped completely out of the chart.
The problem wasn’t awareness, which the TV campaign was supposed to fix. The problem was piracy and the higher profile a game attained the more it was pirated, hence the unstoppable descent down the charts, and hence the complete waste of a lot of money. Maybe the TV advertising actually reduced sales by making the game more of a target for pirates!
I have always hated TV advertising, and especially for computer games. The main problem is that you don’t get what you pay for because the viewers don’t watch the adverts.
These days you can record the programmes with the adverts deleted, but in the past people have always gone to the loo, made a cup of coffee or changed the baby’s nappy in the commercial break. Just look at what you do yourself.
Then there is the targeting; work out the people who are possibly going to make a buying decision then look at the people you are paying to reach. Yes, it is woefully inefficient because you are mostly paying to reach people who are of no use to you.
So combine the people doing other things during the advert with the awful targeting and you can see that you really are just tearing up high denomination notes.
Now in America things are different. The big buyers traditionally base their day one orders on how big the TV spend is, so the publishers are forced to spend big on TV to get sell in.
When they come to the UK they just follow the same recipe and it doesn’t matter that they are wasting money because they are just following orders.
The only thing that TV is (possibly) any good for is mass consumer brands where the products are all the same and brand is the only differentiator &mdash detergent and cola, for instance.
Now radio is a different matter.
It runs constantly in the background whilst you are doing other tasks, so listeners don’t change their behaviour when the adverts come on, so when you advertise you reach the number of people you are paying for.
Also radio has a far higher number of channels offering different things and with demographics that change during the 24 hours, so you can buy a pretty good audience for your game advert.
And best of all, radio advertising is cheap. Obviously you need to do a lot of buying work to get a good national campaign, but it is worth it.
I have always thought that a three day campaign of 20-second adverts is the way to go. On the Thursday you do the “launching tomorrow” advert, on Friday the “today we release” and on Saturday you do “in the shops this weekend”. Sorted.
So now all you buyers and sellers of TV advertising can tell me how wrong I am: that is what the comments function is for!