GameStop Launches First-Ever Integrated National Campaign

GameStop, a leading video game and entertainment-software retailer with 4,954 stores worldwide, is launching its first-ever integrated national ad campaign, called "Power to the players."

The effort, via Dallas-based The Richards Group, comprises two 30-second TV spots, nine print ads, online and viral ads.

The humorous TV spots use video game imagery to make a point. The launch spot, a 60-second ad, takes viewers into an alien shoot-'em-up game in progress, with the human avatar of a player named John, firing away in a typical post-apocalyptic world of metal and machines. Suddenly, one of the hideous aliens firing back says, "Everybody, hang on a sec, stop. Stop." The shooting stops. "John?" The human peeks out from his hiding place. "Yeah?" Alien: "I sense you're just going through the motions."

Then, with the other aliens looking on, chagrined, the two have a heart-to-heart. "Maybe it's time for both of us to move on," says the alien. "Sell us back to GameStop," he says, adding, "and we'll meet somebody who really enjoys being snapped in half ... the way you used to. And listen ... do you mind if we dismember you again, for old time's sake?" "You can try!"--and the shooting starts again.

The second spot shows another game world, in which a hideous skull-faced alien from "Quake Wars" enters ambush style. He is met by soldiers who anticipate the monster's arrival. "What are you doing here?" says one. "I ... lost my cat ... here, kitty." Then he asks: "How did you know?" to which the soldier replies: "A guy at GameStop told me."

Tom De Napoli, vice president/marketing at the Grapevine, Texas-based company, says that the effort comes after a series of roll-ups by the company, including the acquisition in 2005 of EB Games, a division of Electronics Boutique Holdings.

"We completed the GameStop renaming [of EB Games stores] by the end of September. So you get to a point where we have to ask: 'What's our DNA?' We had to think bigger than a tagline."

He says the effort is intended to appeal both to avid gamers and casual gamers who might be visiting GameStop for a gift purchase. "You have to find how to communicate with the core and avid players in a way that doesn't alienate the casuals. We did focus groups [with the new ads], and people found that the relationship [between the monster and the human avatar] was kind of like a break-up. It brings a level of humor."

The effort, adds De Napoli, is the manifestation of nine months of market research and creative development, all aimed at differentiating the company for its focus on console games. "We are the specialty retailer in the category; all we do is games, and so consumers would expect us to talk to them in that vernacular. It's a differentiated position GameStop can take," he says.

Print ads, per De Napoli, will be in Maxim, X Box Magazine and Rolling Stone and also in gaming buff books. The TV spots, which will run in 30- and 60-second formats, will appear in Adult Swim, BET, Comedy Central, ESPN2, MTV, broadcasts of NFL games and elsewhere.

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