Paul Holmes 06 Jul 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
In January 2000, on the heels of the highly successful launch of Pac-Man World 20th Anniversary, Namco Hometek, Inc. came back to Manning Selvage & Lee/Los Angeles with a new assignment. MS&L was charged with recreating “Ms. Pac-Man fever” (circa 1981) during the period leading up to and surrounding the October 2000 release of Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness, Ms. Pac-Man’s first 3D title designed for the Sony PlayStation® game console, Nintendo® 64 and Sega Dreamcast™. Having set the bar high with Pac-Man World, MS&L needed to think BIG. It had been 19 years since Ms. Pac-Man made her debut to the world, so re-creating “Ms. Pac-Man fever” was a large order. With MS&L’s creative thinking, such as creating a “bio” to explain what Ms. Pac-Man had been up to for the past 19 years, and by teaming Ms. Pac-Man with a breast cancer awareness organization, reporters couldn’t get enough of the new 3D Ms. Pac-Man. MS&L reached beyond video game trade magazines to focus on building a buzz through national consumer publications, generating over 111,847,622 consumer impressions, an equivalent ad value of $ 2.1 million. Highlights of the coverage include an appearance of Ms. Pac-Man (a life-size costume character) with MS&L’s Namco client on The Today Show and Fox and Friends morning show, articles in Disney Adventures, Family Fun, URB, Teen Beat and Girl’s Life, and radio coverage on Bloomberg radio.
Namco knew that beyond their primary audience of tweens and teens (ages 7 – 16) and Gen X’ers as secondary influencers (parents and gift-giving relatives, and friends who fondly remember playing Ms. Pac-Man during their youth) that females account for 15 – 20 percent of Ms. Pac-Man gamers. Two problems were very clear: 1.) National media with largely female audiences rarely cover video games; and 2.) Ms. Pac’s new game would be hitting retail shelves in October – a difficult month to obtain media coverage with target print and broadcast outlets because it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. MS&L knew those problems had to be overcome by relating Ms. Pac Man and Maze Madness more closely to women.
MS&L’s objectives were to capitalize on a marketing strategy that relied almost solely on PR to generate awareness, anticipation and purchase intent for the “A-MAZE-ING” Ms. Pac-Man, and to help drive sales to 500,000 units by the end of February 2001.
MS&L knew 2000 would be the perfect year for Ms. Pac-Man’s return – as a well-known brand, Ms. Pac-Man would be able to tap into mass pop culture and its love for everything retro. (MS&L discovered that this craze extended to video games during its Pac-Man campaign the previous year.) With the retro fad continuing well into 2000, Ms. Pac-Man could reap the benefits as well. With the right positioning, Ms. Pac-Man would appeal to girls--finding solidarity with the popular “Girl Power” culture. And, MS&L already knew there was anticipation growing over her return; when Pac came back in 1999, it begged the question, “Where’s the Ms?”
To take advantage of her retro allure, the team did a thorough investigation of our heroine’s past. Our sources included video game historian/“informant” Steven Kent; the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA); JoyStick Nation by New York Times reporter J.C. Herz; gaming enthusiast publications and Web sites; and newspaper and magazine articles, among others.
Based on our knowledge, MS&L hypothesized it could increase media coverage for Maze Madness and desire to purchase by bringing Ms. Pac-Man to life as a “liberated woman of the new millennium” while also playing upon her retro appeal. We used these as our primary media hooks, leveraging the “puzzling” gameplay, 3D graphics and new environments as supporting media angles.
When we began pitching media, we found that most were surprised to hear that Ms. Pac-Man was back – they thought she was a has-been from the 80’s. Through our creative press materials (please see Ms. Pac-Man’s career bio and fun facts document) and by teaming up
Ms. Pac-Man with Lara Croft (heroine from the video game Tomb Raider) at E3 for a photo opp, we were able to show that Ms. Pac-Man was the world’s first female video game star with staying power, and she helped pave the way for other female video game characters.
MS&L came up with the following strategies to achieve its objectives:
Under MS&L’s counsel, Namco partnered Ms. Pac-Man and her new game with a high-profile national charity to reach media that does not traditionally cover video games.
To tap into the “Girl Power” phenomenon, MS&L leveraged Ms. Pac-Man’s career as the number one female executive in the video game business (in fact, she even gobbled up more quarters than Pac-Man) and her passion for fighting for important causes.
And, since it worked so well for our Pac-Man campaign, it was only natural that MS&L leveraged Ms. Pac-Man as a pop culture icon.
Soon after Namco agreed to MS&L’s PR plan for Maze Madness, the agency identified the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO) and proposed a partnership with the leading breast cancer networking and education organization in the U.S. There were many reasons why the partnership made sense: 1) Ms. Pac-Man turned 19 in 2000 and “came of age;” 2) her new game launched in October – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month; 3) she is a fun icon that can communicate a serious message in a lighthearted way; 4) she transcends race, age and social demographics; and 5) she has always worn a red ribbon, which she traded in for a pink one for the month of October. Shortly after MS&L proposed the partnership, NABCO named Ms. Pac-Man as its first-ever celebrity spokesperson.
Key elements of the campaign included: 1) links between Namco and NABCO’s Web sites, including a downloadable postcard from Ms. Pac-Man to send to moms, aunts, teachers, etc., reminding them to get regular breast check-ups; 2) creation of a special logo representing Ms. Pac-Man’s “Pink Ribbon Campaign;” 3) prime space dedicated to the cause on the Maze Madness game packaging; 4) a June press tour in New York with women’s books in which Namco and NABCO spokespeople met with Child, Fitness, Women’s Sports & Fitness, Self, Teen Girl Power, Redbook, Harper’s Bazaar and Seventeen; 5) pitch and place effort with non-New York long-lead media; 6) pitch and place effort with short-lead media; 7) an October media tour in New York with top-tier broadcast, which included appearances on NBC’s “The Today Show,” Fox News Channel and Bloomberg Radio; 8) production of an in-flight PSA for all domestic TWA and Continental Airlines flights during Oct. 2000 (generating an additional 2 million consumer impressions); and 9) production of a video news release, which aired on nearly 50 affiliate stations throughout the country. On October 16, AdWeek ran a special feature on Ms. Pac-Man’s breast cancer awareness campaign and MS&L’s work in its special “PR Report,” and PR Week is running a campaign overview in the February 5, 2001 issue.
Press Kit – MS&L designed a colorful, eye-catching press kit. On the front cover, Ms. Pac-Man is positioned at the intersection of four distinct worlds, illustrating the A-MAZE-ING adventures to be had in the game. Key elements included a release on the new game; a story on her development from 2D to 3D; Ms. Pac-Man’s bio; fun facts about her and her new game; slides; and a game demo. In June, we added a press release on Ms. Pac-Man’s partnership with NABCO.
Viral E-mail Teaser – The team created a fun, irreverent, interactive news flash/personal ad, which was sent to all media attending the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) before the show. The teaser was designed so the text could be easily changed to promote various stages of the campaign. It was used again to announce the NABCO partnership and the launch of the game (this time, the e-mail was also sent to consumers). We used this e-mail teaser to create a word-of-mouth buzz among media and consumers, identified in our research as a key catalyst for purchasers of the game.
E3 2000 - In May, Ms. Pac-Man took center stage at E3, where scheduled meetings were held with over 40 media, including Copley Chicago Newspapers, Dallas Morning News, GQ, Elle, Entertainment Weekly, KCBS-TV, KNBC-TV, Extra, USA Today, Playboy and Rolling Stone. Both her new game and her partnership with NABCO were discussed during these meetings. Ms. Pac-Man also made a special appearance with fellow video game diva Lara Croft, and was spotted rapping with hip-hop artist Coolio – pictures were sent to game, entertainment and music media.
Long-Lead Media Outreach – MS&L developed creative, tailored pitches for its pitch and place campaign to long-lead media (consumer, cool pubs and trade). Ms. Pac-Man has appeared on the pages of URB, Teen Beat, Girl’s Life, Girlfriends, Link Magazine, Disney Adventures, Family Fun, BBW, Latin Girl and License.
Short-Lead Media Outreach (partnership and game) – MS&L’s pitch and place effort to short-lead media has resulted in coverage with the following outlets to date: All News Channel (National), KNBC-TV (Los Angeles), C/Net Gamecenter, Time Out New York, Spanish Weekly, KDAF-TV “Dallas-Fort Worth Close Up,” KROQ-FM “Kevin & Bean” (Los Angeles), KNTV-TV (San Francisco), KBWB-TV (San Francisco), WFTS-TV, Tampa Tribune, and Dallas Morning News.
Matte Column – MS&L wrote a matte column positioning Ms. Pac-Man as the current leader of the retro video game craze, which was distributed to over 10,000 weekly and daily papers nationwide. Local papers across the nation picked up the column, and our clipping service expects clips to continue coming in over the next few months.
New York Tour – MS&L used the retro and “girl power” angles to secure meetings and coverage with consumer media. As a result, Ms. Pac-Man made appearances on MTV’s “Total Request Live,” WWOR-TV (for their November sweeps), and Bloomberg Radio “Bootcamp.” WNYC-AM “New York Kids” also covered the game prior to the tour. A photo of Ms. Pac-Man entertaining NYPD officers and an infant was posted on the wire, which was picked up by several daily and community newspapers.
Based upon results-to-date, partnering with NABCO and positioning Ms. Pac-Man as a celebrity and powerful businesswoman were extremely effective strategies. Additionally, using her status as a pop culture icon allowed us to secure coverage with other types of media. Since announcing the October release of Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness at the May 2000 E3, MS&L has secured more than 111,847,622 consumer impressions, an equivalent ad value of $ 2.1 million on behalf of Maze Madness, a return on investment of 8:1. We won’t be able to ascertain whether we met all of our measurable objectives until the end of February 2001, however, as of January, 2001, Namco was right on track to obtain its goal.
Other testaments to the success of the campaign are the additional budget Namco approved to carry the program beyond the contract date of Oct. 31 through the 2000 holiday season; the October 16 AdWeek feature; and February 5, 2001 PR Week feature.