No one will doubt the success of Sony's VP of many titles, Kevin Butler, because as a marketing icon he is just about everything gamers can resonate with. He can do anything, has an answer for just about everything, manages to swing in gaming lingo while at the same time showcasing whatever title he's trying to drum up excitement for. Just about every single commercial he's in is memorable simply because he is in it. KB is a star, but I have to wonder just how effective his methods are. Sure I remember every commercial he's in, and there's not a single time that he hasn't made me laugh, but what was the last game that he marketed that I purchased? Killzone 3 perhaps, but I had already made up my mind to buy that title before the predictable Butler ad was even aired.
Perhaps it's because a large majority of the commercials feature little actual gameplay and mostly just him talking it up. It reminds me of those old western 'tonic' salespeople who would gather a crowd based on their mastery of language, energetic personalities and large claims, but showcase very little of the product's miracle cures. It wasn't always like this either, Sony took the time to highlight many of the PlayStation 3's bonuses when the campaign first began; the price, features, and capabilities of the PS3 were all handled in a manner that was precise and to the point. There was no confusing how much the system cost, what it could do, and why as an entertainment system it was well worth considering over the competition.
Even the PlayStation Move had a advertisement that was pretty detailed, highlighting every single feature that the product could manage (while making a few good jabs at the competition). That's what a good ad campaign does after all, it tries to make as persuasive an argument as it can in just a matter of seconds. Kevin Butler brought the sound, while all the imagery was based around his subject.
That being said, there are very few ads for game titles that show any substantial amount of gameplay outside of the obligatory cut-scene sequences. Completely unlike the advertisements for the system or peripherals, the ads for games are more about how funny Butler can be than anything else. It certainly makes Sony's current poster boy stand out in my mind, but I just don't find myself compelled to buy any of the games.
I bring up this attack on Kevin because I genuinely feel a few fantastic games have suffered as a result. Killzone 3 is the perfect example. As someone who spends quite a bit of time fawning over successful marketing campaigns, it hurts to see a lack of advertising for a shooter that was genuinely unique. Yet, Killzone's ad featuring Sony's First Person Sensei wasn't even about the game, but rather its Move support. As VP of the Cold Hard Truth, KB is funny and smooth talking, but falls short of really engaging a potential customer into what the game is all about.
A fantastic comparative would be a look at Black Ops' There's A soldier In All of Us which, while not an entirely accurate display of what CoD is all about, did a fantastic job of drawing attention to what the game is all about without a single second of gameplay footage. Features that the game supports (which at the time were cause for some excitement) were even included, such as gun customization, manning a helicopter, and the crossbow. Above all else, it was funny. Not slapstick humor mind you, but at the end of the day, Killzone 3 and Call of Duty are going after the same sort of audience. I wonder if sales would have been different for Killzone 3 had they taken a different approach, perhaps alongside or in addition to the 'It Only Does Everything' campaign. On its own, it doesn't seem to have been that effective.
Perhaps at the end of the day I'm just not the target market for these sorts of ads. After all, I tend to do a lot of research into any title that I might possibly get into, keeping track of just about any FPS that would swing onto the radar. Then again, I'm also a huge fan of 90s action movies, so you would think that the sensationalist Kevin Butler would have me foaming at the mouth with every single appearance. To a certain degree, he does, but not because he's showing off any games that I'm interested in purchasing. It's more so because he's absolutely hilarious. He's never convinced me to take a second look at any PS3 title and while it could be said that his real job is making Sony feel like a much warmer company, it may be time to give the VP a little helping hand.