Sony PS5 ad spot

PS5’s first global ad spot should have made more of the industry’s ability to bring people together

The first big PS5 ad has arrived, despite the console still not having a release date or price – but then it’s a topsy-turvy world that we live in today. The ad spot contains no game footage, not a huge surprise there, and instead concentrates on the new features of the console, the haptic feedback, dynamic triggers and 3D Audio support. Or as Sony puts it “Welcome to a world where you can feel more.”

Personally, I’d like to be in a world where feeling more means getting out more and seeing more people. 

Given the current situation I’d have loved to see Sony riff on the current pandemic and go with a campaign that showed (virtually of course) it bringing people together through its console (as it has actually done over the last six months with PS4), rather than reinforcing that feeling of loneliness and separation by placing a lone gamer in what is a series of largely dark voids. 

Of course the production of the advert had its own issues under the present circumstances. As Eric Lempel, SVP and head of global marketing at Sony Interactive Entertainment, told GI.biz:

“If the world was in a normal place, we would be out there with demo stations at different events, with the ability for consumers to touch the product and interact with it, and really understand what we are talking about. The challenge, early on, became how do we try to express this with a spot, and at the same time, how do we create a spot given the current limitations presented by the global pandemic? So this was a challenge on all fronts for us.”

But the problems of production (and distancing) of the ad-spot shouldn’t have prevented Sony making something that visually brought players together. Even if it didn’t explicitly tackle the pandemic, the tone could have been far more unifying. The advert lacks a rallying line on the level of ‘For the players’ that cut through, resonated with gamers, and served Sony so well in the PS4 era. 

Yes, there’s a longer-running campaign to execute around the PS5’s capabilities, but that shouldn’t prevent the company from making an agile move to tap into the zeitgeist of 2020 – and one that wouldn’t be at all cynical given gaming’s huge contribution to keeping people interacting during the pandemic (look at the sales of Fall Guys for evidence of how much we need something colourful and fun that brings us all together). 

“The advert lacks a rallying line on the level of ‘For The Players’ that cut through, resonated with gamers, and served Sony so well in the PS4 era.”

We could see the value if this angle was a definite winner. Instead it’s something of a brave move to be concentrating on features that players can’t experience for themselves. With no major events and little to no retail activity, players will have to take Sony’s word that these additions are going to make a difference. And let’s admit it, in the past, players have rarely shown any great devotion to console features beyond graphical muscle and exclusives. 

It is an admirable attempt to get past ‘pretty graphics fatigue’ in a world where even normally, the constant waves of social media images, and streamed video, mean that we are constantly shown things as opposed to feeling them. Games are so much more than pretty graphics, and for noting that Sony should be applauded.

The campaign is the first console launch by the newly-reorganised Sony, a more centralised/globalised marketing effort, as Lempel explained:

“In recent years we’ve globalised the company in a number of ways, and one of the things that we wanted to do in anticipation of going into the next generation of consoles was to create one single unified brand line… It’s really important because good lines will stand the test of time, and will become a big part of the company’s brand and communication.”

GI’s Chris Dring feels similarly to us, and asks whether such a centralised approach will allow for local marketing with its own colour to match local markets. 

“It’s different. We will have a lot of local executions to complement these bigger campaigns and bigger spots. And you will see in some of the subsequent parts of the campaign, there will be really big assets that in the past that we probably wouldn’t have done because the activity would have been divided up amongst the different parts of the world… We think we are in a good place, and people are going to be excited about what they will see,” replies Lempel. 

It seems to us that we’re having a once-in-a-generation global event, and so here was a clear opportunity for a centralised global marketing team to divert from the playbook, tap into the feelings around the world and do something amazing. Maybe local activations can do more to help us ‘feel more’ but if they take their lead from this, it seems unlikely.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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