Can you believe it is just four years since the first Assassin's Creed arrived at retail?
There have been some serious changes in the market during that time, from the arrival of high-end smartphones putting pressure on consoles through to changes in the gaming demographic, but through it all Ubisoft's franchise has grown and grown.
In just a few weeks the fourth game in the series, Assassin's Creed Revelations, arrives. It's the third and final game to feature Italian hero Ezio, and promises to build on the previous games' use of gripping narrative, single-player action, and newer multiplayer elements. All of that is an important mix at a time when there's two other big blockbuster franchises battling for attention and the overall excitement building for strong Q4 trading as we head to Christmas.
We caught up with head of brand marketing Mark Slaughter to find out how Ubisoft plans to stand out from the crowd this year – and, over the page, brand manager Jan Sanghera talks through the new game's huge marketing effort...
There are some other big games out this Q4 – including a few other action-oriented franchises competing closely. Do you face much of a challenge in stealing attention away from them?
Share of voice is always a key consideration when media planning. We feel confident not only with the levels of spend but also our creative cut-through this year.
The competition is strong but we believe we will reach and engage with our target audiences. The Assassin's Creed franchise has continually built over the past three years – it's a well loved gaming franchise with a rich tapestry of storytelling and strong gameplay, which truly stands out in this competitive market.
Our Creed campaigns are built on innovation and stand out activity, whether that is via impactful TV and cinema advertising or innovative online campaigns. We always have the objective on making our campaigns true to the brand values of the title – innovative, sophisticated and cutting edge.
Last year's campaign resulted in the fastest sales of the franchise yet. Can you top that this year?
We have some fantastic activity planned for Assassin's Creed Revelations this year. We kicked off our campaign with the impactful 60-second CGI spot across UK cinemas, setting the tone for the campaign. These spots will extend through to TV in the pre-launch weeks before moving into the main launch phase of the campaign. Our TV activity is heavy in weight and we will spread out into other key media channels to ensure our message is heard.
We are running an innovative specialist campaign pre-launch where we challenge our audience to ‘Unlock The Animus' across six weeks of fiendishly tricky Assassin's-esque puzzles. Engagement with this activity has already been fantastic and a great way of tying in editorial to advertising.
We are spending in line with last year and previous Assassin's Creed releases – for us it's one of our key blockbuster titles and it gets top billing and marketing support here.
Assassin's Creed brand manager Jan Sanghera explains the marketing for this year's instalment:
Once again, we have a blockbuster campaign in place to promote Assassin's Creed Revelations. The work started back at E3 when we first announced the game, supported by heavyweight PR, digital and trade activity. The work has continued with PR securing coverage at key milestones in the campaign, and we dropped a 60-second CGI advert during The Inbetweeners at cinemas, throughout August and September, which generated over 3m admissions.
We're now ‘dialling up' the campaign in the run-up to launch, and have released a trailer which focuses on the story in Revelations.
Our specialist pre-launch campaign is in full swing with ad formats appearing across websites such as GameSpot and Eurogamer. This is supplemented by striking four-page ads in specialist mags.
In addition, we launched the ‘Unlock the Animus' project at the beginning of October, giving gamers the opportunity to enter the ‘Animus' and solve puzzles in the run up to launch. The initiative gives fans a unique way to experience the brand and find out more about the game along the way. Supporting media and editorial can be found over at CVG and GamesRadar.
The game has been showcased at all retail events and all major consumer shows like GAMEfest, Eurogamer Expo, PS Access events and the upcoming MCM Expo. The PR team has secured previews and features in specialist and mainstream media by showcasing the game at a spectacular event set against the backdrop from the game, Istanbul, and through local events and visits to the Montreal studio.
Demos will take place at retail throughout this month and November, and presence will start to ramp up in stores and online.
Our eight-week TV campaign will commence this week and run through to December. A mixture of CGI and gameplay ads will be used in high impact programming across a 16 to 24 male audience, supported with a video-on-demand campaign.
A second phase of advertising across specialist websites will supplement reviews during the launch phase. The stand out formats and takeovers will also be replicated across mainstream websites like Sky Sports, YouTube and MSN.
In terms of print media, we'll be running DPS formats across men's lifestyle magazines, and then boost the activity at launch with cover wraps on Guardian Guide, Sport and more. There will also be branded LoveFilm envelopes and a London Underground campaign.