Blogs & Comment

Left out in the cold by Grand Theft Auto V

Ramsey Naja is CCO at JWT MEA

“For many people around the world – well, for the population equivalent of a medium-sized country, as it turns out – 17 September 2013 was a red-letter day. Why? Well, this last Tuesday marked the global launch of something called Grand Theft Auto 5, or GTA V for the initiated.

Now you may argue that I am making a meal out of nothing more than an extremely violent video game with the kind of sexual content that makes teenagers rub their hands with glee and puritans wring theirs in despair, but then you would be either obtuse, misguided or running for the US Senate.

GTA V is not just a game. Nor is it something to be taken lightly as such, either. In fact, many believe that it is the most significant cultural event of this decade. In a nutshell, GTA V creates a virtual environment that is so real, so complete and so immersive, it is hard to think that the make-believe life you make for yourself in it as a sex-obsessed criminal, will not have repercussions on the real one.

But what’s it got to do with advertising? Well, quite a lot. Chew over this: over its five franchises, GTA has managed to remain brand-free. In fact, it has all the brands a world that mirrors ours should have, but fake ones. And whilst other big-ticket titles have embraced in-game advertising with glee, GTA has not just eschewed them, it has poked so much fun at them it should carry a health warning for CMOs.

And the learning for advertising and advertisers? Well, when a product ships to an expected 20 million customers, and reels in a cool $1 billion, it can be one of two things: either we are talking of a superlative uber-product brilliant enough to carry itself without brand advertising (but with the help of some astonishingly controversial PR), or of the result of a spectacular integrated campaign. In fact, the global campaign featured only the logo, the words ‘release date’ and a few digits. 17.9.2013, to be precise.”