McGill on marketing Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach is being backed by an enormous campaign – with Microsoft pumping 60 per cent more money into it than Halo 3.

MCV grills Microsoft UK’s director of entertainment and devices Stephen McGill about the wide-reaching marketing plans.

So, is Halo: Reach going to be bigger than Halo 3?

Absolutely – the marketing campaign for Halo: Reach sees a 60 per cent increase over what was spent on Halo 3 – this is a huge title for us. But aside from spend, we’ve again seen some really innovative marketing execution around the game.

The live action TV spots, the unique experience site, the wealth of cool video content on Xbox Live – the campaign has been a really exciting one to work on, so we look forward to seeing the consumer reaction.

What are you doing to market the game online?

We have really executed something cool, unique and engaging to drive word of mouth. Following online activity around the Reach beta, we sustained momentum after E3 though the summer until launch.

With rich media banners driving to deep experience sites, we’re taking consumers on a very immersive journey into the Halo universe. For example, we’ve created a very unique and different experience site for Halo: Reach at Users are invited to remember” Noble Team by placing a point of light in a stunning Light statue”. Then, in real time, a real life robotic arm located in New York will add their dot of light to the Noble team image and let users share its location with their friends on Facebook.

On that note we really leveraged our own communication channels of and our social media channels for Halo: Reach. We know our core audience are very vocal evangelists so engaged them early through our Facebook, Twitter, the Xbox Live dashboard and Xbox community networks to really drive Halo: Reach messaging to a wider gaming audience.

For launch week Xbox Live and its 25m active members will see a whole host of great Halo: Reach content that features new gear, exciting content, spectacular prizes and a chance to play with the creators of the game. And, as a special bonus, all fans that jump online will receive the Halo: Reach Invasion Week” theme for free.

Are you promoting the game heavily on TV as well?

An epic blockbuster like Halo: Reach deserves an equally epic TV campaign, and we really think we’ve delivered a truly stunning series of ads that have high impact and are emotive.

We started the campaign back in April, with the outstanding Birth of A Spartan” TV spot – depicting the genetic transformation of a normal soldier into a Spartan Mark III. This creative drove consumers to engage in the beta – in fact, I believe it’s the first time a games publisher has gone on TV to advertise a console beta. This was a real statement of intent around the franchise and the fact we had the global premiere of this spot during the Champions League on ITV1 was a real success.

We’ve then followed that up with the incredible Deliver Hope” TV spot. The short is a riveting, action-packed production that offers an emotional look at the courage and sacrifice of Noble Team in their defense of the planet Reach from a crushing Covenant invasion.

With an extremely weighty campaign targeting 16 to 34-year-old males, running 60-second ad pre-release then a mix of 30-second and 60-second ads post-release, we’re absolutely pushing the Halo blockbuster message to a wider consumer audience.

We’re also delivering a very special 2min 20second edit of the Deliver Hope” creative on release night – September 14th – on Channel 4 to really drive home the scale of the title.

Continuing the tradition of bringing the Halo universe to life via gripping live-action shorts, the Remember Reach” experience site is also hosting a series of different web films. Depicting life on Reach the day before the Covenant invasion, the films will continue to really drive an emotional connection to consumers.

So what kind of print marketing will there be?

We leveraged print to really support the online and TV campaigns and galvanize our core audience in the months leading up to launch. Along with a heavyweight campaign across specialist, men’s consumer and entertainment press, we delivered some very cool front cover gatefolds and hard centres to really introduce the unique characters of Noble Team to consumers.

What POS materials are you providing to the trade?

We’ve seen some really stunning executions in store and online from our retail partners in the lead up to launch. Whether this is homepage dominance, dedicated CRM, standout in store presence with gondola ends, disruptive Noble Team standees and FSDUs, pallet wraps or full-scale window takeovers, retail is absolutely getting behind the biggest release of the year.

Pre-orders have been a huge focus for us, driving the Legendary and Limited Collector’s Edition SKUs, along with all of the great digital content packed inside the pre-order editions of the standard SKU.

Finally, can you tell us about the press and PR campaign?

One thing that’s been really clear throughout the whole campaign is the game quality. A packed PR campaign has seen media get hands on time with the game at frequent occasions, and the response has been unanimous – the consensus is this is absolutely the biggest and best Halo game we’ve ever delivered, and once again really innovates in the online multiplayer space to deliver the deepest and most comprehensive action shooter in recent memory.

We held an incredible review event recently so can’t wait to see the scores once that embargo lifts, and, in keeping with an entertainment blockbuster launch, we delivered a very special launch event/premiere yesterday to really drive that day one coverage and excitement.

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