Is There Such A Thing As Bad Publicity?

I am archiving older pieces I have written on other sites, making this the definitive home for all my work. This is one of several I am porting over from my GameDev.Net user journal. Enjoy!

I watch a lot of TV. I mean a LOT of TV. I also listen to the local urban radio stations quite a lot when I'm driving, though sometimes I elect for jazz or swing. Anyway, there had been a lot of buzz on the NY and CT hip-hop stations about 50 Cent having a houseparty and running a contest/promotion to give away tickets, etc. To be honest, I thought it was extremely odd. In fact, I thought it was downright unwise. Your house is your sanctuary; why would you grant these people access to it?

So I ignored it and filtered it out of my awareness, such that I wouldn't realize - or wouldn't pay attention - when they spoke about it on the radio.

A few weeks later I was channel surfing (this is how I get to see the weirdest stuff) and I came across 50 Cent's House Party on MTV2, in the documentary/cinema vérité style of the various MTV Making the... properties (same announcer, too, which explains a lot). Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I watched. The first thing I learned was that 50 set up a "nightclub" in a portion of his house which was sealed off from the rest, so he didn't grant access to his sanctuary. The security was also under strict orders to instantly evict anyone caught snooping or trying to access other parts of the house.

The second thing I learned was how masterful 50 is at promotion. He took this ostensibly fluff piece and turned it into an essay on how hard he works, how he structures and runs his personal organization, how he recognizes the value of spectacle and of seemingly "free" giveaways as an advertisement vehicle. By the end of the show I was lost in a deep analytical reverie. At first glance, this had seemed to be "bad publicity": yet another rapper throwing yet another elaborate and lavish party. Upon further inspection it turned out to be some carefully crafted and wonderfully executed promo.

Fine, what does that have to do with us? Furthermore, is that really bad publicity? Try spinning Lil' Kim's conviction for perjury, then I'll give you props!

You're right. This is really a missive on promotion and the value of ancillary product - 50's house party was ancillary to the release of his new album. As a producer, as much as the core task is ensuring the product is created and delivered on time and on - preferrably under - budget, one can't lose sight of various PR duties or advertising. The creation, designation or repurposing of certain in-game assets (perhaps re-rendered for high resolution/fidelity) for marketing purposes is crucial to the ability to create consumer excitement. As much as we like to act jaded about games, particularly on this site, many of us are wowed by our first glimpses of fantastic graphics and first taste of teeth-rattling audio. Integrating this into a good ad that doesn't reveal too much or too little - television, print, online, radio - can be a major differencemaker.

At this point, some may be grumbling about how they're indie developers and they don't do advertising beyond a website and some banner ads. I'm so sorry for you. Getting your games onto magazine cover discs is an excellent means of promotion, and that means a mention in the magazine's "On This [Month|Week]'s CD." You should have high-res screenshots and what not ready for that, and there's an article in the resource section on creating print-quality screenshots by rendering quadrants of the screen.

What about local public access TV computer shows? Most of them are starving for content! Send them a demo reel and be open to talk not only about the product but about the process, the education necessary (formal and informal) and the challenges and triumphs.

Be like 50 Cent (bet you never thought you'd hear that statement!). Get creative!

Corrolary: Attaching a specific personality to a product significantly heightens both impact and appeal.