Sony plays a canny game to crack conundrum for global advertisers: One cast with three scripts helped sell Playstation at Xmas. Karen Yates reports

You have hired a creative London agency to work for you across several countries, because you want creativity coupled with a consistent message.

You have hired a creative London agency to work for you across

several countries, because you want creativity coupled with a consistent


But the markets you cover differ wildly. In some places you are the

market leader, and in others a relative unknown. In certain areas, the

fast-moving youth market you target needs off-the-wall ads, and in

others they demand plain speaking.

What do you do? It’s a conundrum that faces many international

advertisers, and it is one that Sony solved for its Christmas campaigns

last year in an ingenious way.

Sony’s agency, Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson, hired one cast, as usual,

for its Playstation commercials, and set up one shoot. But it had

prepared, in conjunction with specialists from each different market,

three separate scripts.

’In the UK, we expect to have to sit down and work ads out, but in

Germany, if it is too oblique, they will ignore it,’ explains Simon

Anholt, the managing director of World Writers, the company drafted in

to help with the international tailoring of the commercials. ’In the UK,

you have to be oblique to establish your credentials, but in Germany you

have to be straight.’

So, World Writers and Simons Palmer set to work on Playstation.

Differences were most marked in the spots for Crash Bandicoot, a game in

which a masked figure runs rampant among boxes of apples, splitting them

open for use as missiles.

It was decided to retain the same basic message across all three

principal markets - the claim that Crash Bandicoot can change your life.

But the ads turned out very different for France, Germany and the


All three adopted a documentary style, and opened on a supermarket to

which police have been called because of a disturbance.

In the UK version, a single sad freak is inside. He has been playing too

much Crash Bandicoot and is running amok through the apples. The tale

unfolds through an interview with a policeman who concludes by

attempting to play down the news to the public: ’It’s not an

epidemic ... maybe three incidents a week,’ he says.

This was deemed a far too low-key approach for the French and German

markets, where Sony is only a small player.

’It needed to be more of an event,’ Anholt explains. ’If we ran the UK

version in Germany, they would only say ’why are you bothering to tell

me about it if there was only one freak?’’

So, in the German and French versions there are about 100 freaks, all

suffering from the same affliction and breaking open cases of


In these commercials, the cops cry excitedly that this is a phenomenon

that is breaking out all over the country.

There were other changes. The police are also affected by the Crash

Bandicoot bug in the French and German versions. Both of these also have

much more definite end scenes, particularly in France where the cop eats

one of the apples, compared with the more downbeat conclusion of the

English commercial.