PS5: 2020’s biggest entertainment launch – Case Study 2021

Shortlisted 2021

Media and Entertainment

Brand

Playstation

Entered by:

MediaCom

PS5: 2020's biggest entertainment launch

The Challenge

In a highly competitive entertainment landscape, success for PlayStation’s new PS5 console depended on creating a global launch that both celebrated gaming and transcended into wider popular culture.  Our objective was to drive preference against gaming competitors (Xbox) and create cultural impact that would stand tall alongside the biggest global tech and movie launches.  We knew our approach would need to evolve from previous product launches as the entertainment and gaming landscape had transformed dramatically.

The gaming world had changed significantly since 2013, when PlayStation launched the successful PS4. The category had seen exponential growth, an explosion of new competitors and a fragmentation of audiences.

For context, in just three years Fortnite has grown to over 350m players, larger than the US population. In 2020, 100 billion hours of gaming content was watched on YouTube by more than 80,000 gaming content creators (each with 100k+ subscribers).

What has remained the same are the fundamental reasons why people play – gaming enables amazing experiences, facilitates connections, and drives conversations worldwide. It brings people together and thrills them – and that’s exactly what we set out to do for the launch of PlayStation 5.

The Creative Solution

For the PS5 launch, we realised the power of uniting all elements of today’s sprawling gaming community. Our overarching idea was to create social proof of PS5 and take advantage of this cognitive bias to ensure that for invested gamers and the mass audience, PlayStation was seen as the only choice of console.  Our starting point was to mobilise the loyal and engaged PlayStation fanbase to evangelise about the immersive technology of the console – a key differentiator for gamers. However, the largest driver of purchase intent, even for this expert audience, remained an emotional trust in the PlayStation brand.

For the more casual gamers, crucial to long-term success, brand trust was also hugely important. However, there was another dynamic at work. Their gaming choices were driven by the authoritative recommendations of their gamer friends.  Our approach was to generate cultural impact in two ways; creating pre-launch momentum and buzz among the core audience, then cultural relevance and impact that would excite the masses in a launch spectacular.  This would also fuel a vital driver of momentum and brand trust among gaming audiences to drive social proof – the vocal support and recommendation from the core gamer audience in turn engaging and exciting the wider audience opportunity.

Momentum was imperative – a fast start would enable us to maximise social proof. The brand that built the perception of dominance, the brand that was ‘seen’ to be winning, would be the brand more casual gamers chose.  The global social proof approach therefore focussed on two key elements, building gradually through a phased approach across the launch window:

First, in premium, contextual activity (named RESONANT) we embedded ourselves within the core gamer community, seeding emotive brand assets through activations, tactics, and partners. This activity would encourage core gamers to engage with and talk about PS5’s launch, with the ubiquity of their endorsement contributing to social proof. These activations were supported by a bedrock of traditional media to drive visibility of our product-focussed launch assets.

Secondly, for the mass launch activity (named ICONIC & UNEXPECTED), we created a global programme of creative, high impact, non-traditional activations that would elevate the campaign from a product launch to an unmissable global entertainment event. This strand of activity – targeting mass entertainment audiences, supported heavily through owned social channels – set out to emulate the leadership and stature of a trusted entertainment brand and fully realise the social proof effect.

The Media/Content Amplification Solution

We executed our communication strategy through globally consistent activations, tailored to be locally relevant in over 50 markets.

For global Iconic & Unexpected activity we “painted the town blue” with a series of building projections and digital billboard dominations across 25 major global landmarks, including Times Square, the Burj Khalifa, Piccadilly Circus, and more.  Further UK Iconic activity saw several London Underground stations renamed as some of PlayStation’s biggest games like “Gran Turismo 7” Sisters and “Miles” End (a nod to the Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales PS5 launch game). The emblematic signage at Oxford Circus tube station was transformed to reflect the iconic PlayStation symbols, promoted through owned social channels this lit up social media and traditional news media worldwide.

For Resonant activity in the US, we collaborated with Adult Swim network to create custom content featuring a PS5 spot from the brilliant animated characters (and gamer favourites), Rick & Morty, delivered in their own irreverent style. Identifying the influence and reach of Twitter amongst the global gamer community, we developed a media first partnership allowing fans to vote on the emoji that would be the digital icon for the PS5 launch on the platform.

We embraced imaginative partner brand initiatives that allowed us to resonate deeply in the lives of a gamer audience. In the UK, working with Greggs we created ‘Launch Box’ (full of treats to chomp on whilst playing) exclusively available through Just Eat (another gamer favourite). While in the US, Philadelphia’s cheesecake pan parody, resembling the PS5 console, was a huge viral hit – without our involvement!

The Result

Ultimately our ambition to unite the gaming world in a celebration that triumphed in popular culture meant PS5 was the biggest console launch ever, with spectacular demand at launch and 4.5m unit sales.  PlayStation made the most of this pivotal brand moment to lay the foundation for long-term success, achieving PS5 preference more than double Xbox (increasing by nearly 5%)* at launch. We also achieved a dominant 70% share of category search **.

Transcending gaming and demonstrating cultural impact, our Rick and Morty spot generated mass social presence with over 10m interactions and 4m views. Leading up to Christmas, PS5 even starred in its own Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Jason Bateman and Eminem.

The Twitter emoji was voted for by 1.4m users and was used over 5m times throughout the launch. We dominated the conversation with a majority share of press coverage with more than twice as much buzz as the nearest competitor.  Despite only launching in November, a sign of the huge demand for PS5, in Google’s Review of Top 2020 searches in that deeply strange year, ‘Where to buy PS5’ even beat ‘Where to buy toilet paper’ to the number 1 spot!

Sources:

Nielsen Brand Tracker

** Google

*** Twitter