The French Revolution

The French Revolution
2006 was certainly a hell of a year for Ubisoft. Not only did the French publisher leap up the publisher league tables to claim the number three position by units and value, but it ended the year as the number three Xbox 360 publisher (behind only Microsoft and EA) and number two on Wii (behind only Nintendo).

It’s an impressive feat by any standards. Particularly when you consider that just five years ago it was nestling at the bottom of the publisher top ten – and when one takes into account that it has achieved this with no big movie licences.

There’s no doubt that product quality has had a major bearing on Ubisoft’s 2006 performance. The latest instalments in the Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell series saw a return to form last year, enjoying both commercial and critical success, while Rayman Raving Rabbids and Red Steel underlined the publisher’s position at the forefront of the next generation.

But Ubisoft’s UK marketing team also played no small part in promoting both its sexy, triple-A franchises and its more family and kid-friendly titles such as the Petz and Pippa Funnell series. And an increased focus on online marketing has been key for the company.

“In terms of how we’re changing the way we’re spending our money, online media is becoming far much more effective for us in some areas,” reveals UK marketing director Jon Rosenblatt. “Online was over 20 per cent of overall media spend last year.”

And the publisher’s hiring of Alan Dykes as digital marketing manager clearly demonstrates Ubisoft’s intentions going forward. “We’ve now created a very strong digital marketing team,” points out Rosenblatt. “We have two online marketing managers who spend all day talking to the online community, so that we can create the buzz for our titles.”

And Rosenblatt believes that in many ways Ubisoft is leading the way in the market: “There are so many areas of online marketing that haven’t been properly targeted by the industry.

“There are, of course, the likes of Eurogamer and Gamespot, and we will remain very supportive of them. But we’re also talking to people like Google, who have a video channel, and MySpace, which of course is now part of IGN. And we’re also talking to the smaller, hardcore games websites which actually still have thousands of users.

“We’re driving hard in this area, because we can get a fantastic return on investment. Online, we can manage the message more effectively, change the message, capture data. And our online CRM manager works closely with our digital marketing manager to ensure that all online media is in line with our traditional above-the-line PR, print and TV advertising.”

While Rosenblatt is proud that the team at Ubisoft remains at the cutting edge of new marketing technologies, he does concede that Ubisoft’s triple-A titles are more suited to this particular marketing treatment than to some of his rivals’ portfolios.

“We have titles that are gamers’ games,” he points out. “With the huge mass market titles like FIFA, the media strategy has to be different to what we do with Ghost Recon. And gone are the days of targeting simply the 16-24 year-old males.

“So, yes, I do think that we’re leading in terms of innovation online,” Rosenblatt continues. “Microsoft and Nintendo are doing a fantastic job and you can’t take anything away from the incredible marketing machines that are EA and THQ. We have a number of great games, and a great marketing strategy, but it’s different.

“There’s more of the same to come from us, although we will be spending more this year, given the titles that we have coming up. We’re still investing in traditional marketing, of course, but we want to challenge the media for more compelling, exciting opportunities.”

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