Feel The Heat: Agency Launches Weapon-Free Campaign For Shooter Game

Most video game titles sell themselves. Creative agencies merely have to recreate the visually stunning worlds and plots to entice gamers to line up in droves. Indeed, "Grand Theft Auto 5" earned $800 million in the first 24 hours of release.

But Electronic Arts/PopCap Games required an extra level of creativity from its full-service agency Heat to launch its new third-person shooter console video game, "Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare," out Feb. 25 exclusively on Xbox One.

The game is designed to bridge the gap between console and mobile gamers by appealing to a wider audience. It pits zombies against plants as they fight one another using silly weapons and concepts. As such, the ratings board ERSB rates the game E10+, for anyone over age 10.

This all-age label, however, forbids any ads from featuring weapons. "We are a parody shooting game in a war zone, but cannot show any weapons in the scenes," says Ryan Hartsfield, senior writer, Heat. "We got around it by showing a lot of action and movement. We tried to make it as realistic as possible without crossing the line."

Instead, the creative blends fantasy with silliness. One ad recreates a battle with a dolphin cannon weapon that shoots fish chum. "It is real chum and a real air cannon. It's crazy the stuff we brought [to the shoot]," says Hartsfield.

Since this game is designed to appeal beyond core gamers, ads will appear on both major gaming sites, as well as lifestyle and humor sites, such as Funny Or Die.

"We want the more casual gamers that aren't always glued to their console," says Jeff Fang, senior art director, Heat. There will be the traditional pre-roll ad buy on YouTube, as well as Facebook and Twitter outreach. The first wave of this campaign launches this month and later this year, Heat will introduce another campaign to support the game's expansion to additional console systems.

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