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access_time February 13, 2013 at 8:35 AM in Culture by Justin Weinblatt

How Not To Advertise The PS4: A History of Bad Sony Ads


Sony is about to launch the new PS4, and it’s hard not to be a bit excited.  Not to insult any PC gaming fans, but the industry has largely been driven by consoles and in particular by today’s three dominant console manufacturers.  Like any gamer with a shred of sense, I hope Sony and Microsoft put out some great stuff to add to Nintendo’s Wii U.

In that spirit I have some advice to offer Sony.  It’s no secret that Sony’s had some hits and misses in their marketing campaigns.  Their Kevin Butler and Michael ads have been great examples of how to properly advertise a console, but Sony has also had their share of marketing flops.  In the spirit of helping Sony out with their PS4 marketing, I’d just like to gently remind them of some of their less effective ads so they don’t make the same mistakes they’ve made in the past.

PS3’s Crying Baby

In trying to analyze this ad, I’d like to quote Youtube user CaseyComicCompany who said, “So one day Sony was doing ALLLLLLL the cocaine~!”

After seeing this ad, the only way I can makes sense of it is as a public service announcement.  Clearly, Sony is warning expectant mothers not to use the PS3.

The worst part of this is that it was the beginning of a $150 million dollar marketing blitz (which incidentally is about 1/3 of what Microsoft paid for Kinect’s advertising and about $150 million more than Nintendo spent on Wii U advertising).  Want to see more of Sony’s ads of this period?  No?  Too bad.

Rubik’s Cube

I have as much trouble solving Ruik’s Cube as the next guy, but I’m not going to pay five hundred ninety nine USD for a machine that will solve it for me… and then blast the colors all over my apartment…

In all seriousness though, imagery is important in commercials, and you should be careful what products you associate with your new machine.  Rubik’s Cube doesn’t exactly scream “fun and accessible”.  In all fairness, there was a more effective extended cut for this commercial which was interesting but still a little creepy.  You can check that one out here.

Welcome To The Third Place

Sony’s tradition of commercials that make Lost seem straightforward and simple started before the days of the PS3.  Now, if anyone needs me, I’m going to be sitting in the fetal position rocking back and forth.  That duck will haunt my dreams.

Ironically, this ad was pretty prophetic.  Sony would follow up this ad with similar advertisements for the PS3, like we’ve seen above.  Due to this campaign, Sony would eventually find itself in “The Third Place”.

Marcus PSP

So it’s 2010.  The PSP 3000 is getting crushed by the DS, the PSP Go is a failure, and Nintendo has just announced their new portable which is receiving a nice amount of hype (people were excited back when we thought the 3DS would launch with RE: Revelations and Kid Icarus Uprising).  How do you turn the tide of the handheld wars?  With Marcus: Savior Of The PSP.

Now, Kevin Butler has always been a bit arrogant, but he’s a loving spoof on the typical executive type.  Marcus on the other hand is simply grating and obnoxious.  You know that annoying kid cursing up a storm when playing you in COD?  That’s Marcus.  Perhaps the character will appeal to kids who wish they could mouth off to adults or people who have low self esteem and like the abuse, but the average adult just wanted to slap Marcus across the face.

Buy a PSP If You Like Dudes Making Passes At You And Pissing Yourself

I’m a pretty big portable gaming fan.  I play my portables everywhere.  I play it at the doctor, on the train, on a boat, in a moat, here and there, and everywhere.  Well not everywhere.  I tend to avoid playing my portables in the men’s room, particularly while I’m in the process of urinating.

This isn’t really a bad commercial.  The not so subtle innuendo is worth a chuckle and seeing a grown man piss himself is always funny.  However, the commercial did nothing to make me want a PSP.  By the way, there were like 20 empty stalls in that bathroom.  Why use the one right next to some random dude?  And how did said dude know that the PSP playing guy didn’t whip it out before he peaked over the edge of his stall?  Both of those guys need a crash course on urinal etiquette.

All I Want For Christmas Is My PSP

Little kid begging his parents for a PSP for Christmas?  Could be kind of cute I guess.  Twenty nine year old date rapist rapping to his parents for a PSP?  Not so cute.  This was Sony’s attempt to reach out to the unwashed PSPless masses.  Just so you know, if you’re a 16-34 year old male, that’s what Sony’s marketing team thinks of you (I know Sony didn’t make the ad themselves, but someone in the hallowed halls of Sony viewed this before it went live).  The worst part of all this is that the campaign was downright insulting to audiences.  We were supposed to believe that this was in no way associated with Sony?  Oh, and anything that makes me even a little bit more like the guy in that commercial is something I want to avoid.  If that guy wants a PSP, I don’t.  For shizzy.

Uhhhhh… Wow…


So… uhhhh.  Welp… that actually happened.  I really can’t fathom how this came to pass.  Now, even if you’d like to give Sony the benefit of the doubt and assume this wasn’t racist and that Sony’s marketing team is unaware of the history of colonization and slavery in the world, you have to think SOMEONE would have shot this idea down before it made its way onto a billboard.  You’d also think that Sony would be smart enough not to defend the ad by saying,

“A variety of different treatments have been created as a campaign to either highlight the whiteness of the new model or contrast the black and the white models. Central to this campaign has been the creation of some stunningly photographed imagery…”

Stunningly photographed imagery?  That’s one way to describe it.  So, yeah.  Sony’s marketing division is either racist of incredibly stupid.

Actually A Good One

There you go.  That wasn’t so tough, now was it?  Catchy song, gameplay footage, show off a few features, and that’s all.  You don’t need acid trip imagery, you don’t need a smartass kid, you don’t nee a date rapist, and you certainly don’t need racist overtones.  All you need to do is show what it is your product actually does.  So, let that be a lesson to Sony as they head into the PS4 era.  Keep it simple guys.

Now, before you get your get your unmentionables all bunched up, all companies have had their successes and flops in advertisements.  What have been your favorite and least favorite advertisements for Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, or any other company in the gaming world?  Let us know it in the comments section below.


  • Ramon Aranda February 13, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Really funny article dude!

    • Justin Weinblatt February 13, 2013 at 9:26 AM

      Crazy thing is that I could have added a lot more to this… There’s definitely enough out there for a part two.

  • Kearney April 16, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    “So one day Sony was doing ALLLLLLL the cocaine!” Is a JonTronShow Quote, the guy you found was referencing him!!!

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