Grand Theft Auto IV real world viral campaign


I have said before that real world old media is still often far faster and far more powerful for marketing than online. So it is nice to see City of Liberty Police Department wanted posters for Niko, Elizabeta, Mannie and other characters from GTA IV being put up all over North America, starting with New York. The only danger is that the posters will themselves be collectors items, so they won’t stay up long.

The posters ask people to E-mail their tips to and they’ll get an interesting image in return. This will create a nice big opt in email marketing database.

And just to make sure they get the maximum marketing impact from this, Take Two / Rockstar have told the world’s media about the campaign and so this story is getting them massive global publicity. By April 29th, with all the marketing activity, just about everyone will be pumped up to buy this game!!


  1. Your position that offline media is still more powerful than online media is undercut by the fact that if it weren’t for Kotaku, Joystiq, and other online video game media, you would never have heard of this piece of marketing (nor would have had that image).

    In fact, all Rockstar had to do was place a single poster, photograph it, and email it out to the online VG press. If they put up 10,000 posters, maybe 5,000 qualified impressions would be created. But by spreading it around online, they’re guaranteed millions of qualified impressions.

    And how would this “viral” campaign even be spread “virally” without the online media space that is nurtured by online marketing?

    Food for thought.

  2. With conventional media, newspaper and television, I can easily reach several hundred million people in one day with my exact message. The Sun alone has 8 million readers in the UK. Online only has a fraction of this horsepower.

    Viral was around long before the interweb. It is just a matter of getting your advertising talked about. In my youth I remember the “Hello Boys” Wonderbra advertisement, for instance, which got everyone talking and had massive media editorial coverage. Apple achieved the same with their Super Bowl advertising in the ’80s.

  3. Sure, you can hit millions by running expensive ads in mainstream mass media, but that’s not qualified in any way, unless you’re targeting the masses. Video games still have a long way to go before they’re movies, and it would be a shame to see their paltry marketing budgets being spent on page 10 adverts in The Sun alongside Marks & Spencer ads.

    Prior to the Internet, a “viral” campaign was just good marketing. Those classic marketing campaigns were talked about because they were groundbreaking, honest and fascinating.

    So the point I’m trying to make is that online marketing (including, and really based in, community and PR) allow tiny campaigns like GTA4 wanted posters to make sense. If the Internet vanished tomorrow and Rockstar wanted to generate offline impressions with these posters, they would need to place hundreds of thousands of them, or make them so incredibly remarkable (like the “viral” campaigns of old) to achieve buzz worthy status.

    This is all prompted by the irony of you hoorah-ing offline media, when the concept completely fails without online media to support and spread it.

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