EDITOR’S COMMENT: Ask Nintendo how consistency does make a difference

The computer games sector is one of the more vicious in the UK alongside cola, hamburgers and trainers. Perhaps more than any of those, however, games brands go in and out of fashion with terrifying speed.

The computer games sector is one of the more vicious in the UK

alongside cola, hamburgers and trainers. Perhaps more than any of those,

however, games brands go in and out of fashion with terrifying

speed.



Nintendo was dominant in every country globally through its Gameboy and

other products until the early 90s. Sega was a relative minnow. When it

left the then Still Price Lintas for WCRS the business was worth a mere

pounds 500,000. Soon it was a pounds 10 million-plus account and WCRS’s

excellent pirate campaign established Sega as the UK market leader.

’Your parents wouldn’t like it’ was the message of what was presented as

a subversive campaign. The advertising cemented the reputations of the

clients - Philip Ley, Jim Hytner and Simon Morris - who later moved en

masse to Sky. Crucially, Sega’s positioning was far removed from the

cosy wholesomeness of Nintendo’s Gameboy.



This was only too evident in Nintendo’s last serious television campaign

in the mid-90s. Although Nintendo spent an astonishing pounds 10 million

in the weeks leading up to Christmas 1993, the feebleness of J. Walter

Thompson’s campaign starring Rik Mayall could not be disguised.



Since then Nintendo hasn’t had a product worth advertising. And its

duopoly with Sega was rocked in 1995 by the launch of Sony’s

Playstation. The then Simons Palmer ’fear the power of Playstation’

campaign stole Sega’s positioning, and the latter’s 16-bit product was

no match for the 32-bit Playstation. Even when Sega managed to launch

its 32-bit Saturn product, it was obvious that decline had set in.

Saturn was overwhelmed by Playstation’s pounds 9 million spend.



Other than Playstation, the only noticeable advertising in the market

since has been the 1996 press execution from Nintendo’s then incumbent

Leo Burnett for the new Gameboy. Relying lamely on shock tactics, it

depicted a scantily clad woman chained to a bed while her partner played

his Gameboy.



There were, of course, complaints to the Advertising Standards

Authority.



Belatedly, Nintendo launched its much-vaunted N64 console in February

1997. Now, its UK distributor, THE Games, is seeking a new ad

agency.



The N64 costs pounds 100 more than Playstation. To compete credibly,

Nintendo will need to match the millions Playstation spent on ads last

year and, more importantly, develop a clear brand positioning. THE Games

invested some pounds 7 million in ads before Christmas. Can you recall

one?



Over the past five years, Nintendo has become a surprisingly undesired

client on the new-business circuit. THE Games will know that it can’t

afford to get it wrong again. As Nintendo has realised, and Sega

discovered to its cost, the penalty for the lack of new product

development and marketing innovation is virtual oblivion. Anyone

remember Atari and Pacman?



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