Graphics on phones have come a long way since Snake. Samsung’s “next generation” Exynos 2200 chip was previously only available on game consoles, but now delivers a high-quality gaming experience on mobile.
Knowing that launching a new chip (which is hidden in the hardware) isn’t the sexiest update, Samsung turned to Bartle Bogle Hegarty to help make it exciting for hardcore gamers. .
“We wanted to create a totally different kind of campaign than what the category normally advertises,” says Sam Hardy, senior account manager. Indeed, there’s a general formula that seems to work for phone launches: a stylish photo with 360° rotation, a list of new specs, and then friends laughing, saving memories on their phones.
And so: “For Samsung, we wanted to put a stake in the ground and humanize the technology, rather than focusing on functional, tech-heavy product messages. To change perceptions,” he explains.
Describing the Samsung gig as a “dream brief”, editor Elliott White says the BBH team started by brainstorming to figure out what the product would mean for gamers.
“It would allow them to play console-quality games on their phone,” he explains. “And would invade the mobile games market, which traditionally houses simple and somewhat childish games with a new 4K adult section for serious gamers. And this tribe loves heading to dark and uncharted places, which is where we took them.
From this thought, the metaphorical market of mobile games was born, which they use as a visual metaphor for an online application store.
From Viking axes to bank robbers, space creatures to Swat teams, a universe full of characters, items and weapons has slowly come to fruition – all designed to be familiar to players.
“There are references to different genres of games scattered throughout the film,” reveals art director Wil Maxey, recalling how “the props and wardrobe department had a blast.”
Maxey explains how tight deadlines meant the team had to do as much work behind closed doors as possible. “So instead of creating ‘pixelated’ watermelons and swords in CGI, the art department made them themselves by hand, and we added simple effects later, in post. In the end, it helped everything look and feel a lot more real, which only benefited the film.
Despite the fact that half of the world’s gaming population is female, people have long assumed that gaming is dominated by teenagers – a marketing blind spot, if there ever was one. “We knew a male was expected,” White said of the decision to have a female lead.
“It was just more interesting for a female player to go out and find what she really wants in the game – a really big gun. Males can dominate the popular perception of the game. We had casting sessions with men and women, and Chase [who plays the protagonist] absolutely passed his audition.
It helped that she racked up so many hours playing Call of Duty, White adds, which meant she didn’t need any weapons training.
When “Playtime is over” was dropped last week, there were instant rumors that a big campaign like this must have cost Samsung an arm and a leg. But the BBH team assures Countryside that the budget was realistic. “It’s probably not as big as most people will think when they see the scale of the movie,” says Hardy. “Matthijs [Van Heijningen]production company MJZ and post-production house Mikros worked wonders with what they had.
Now that BBH has spoken about this rich and alternative universe, does he intend to build it? “We really think there’s huge potential to evolve this world, especially now that gaming is finally seen as storytelling,” Hardy teases. “So watch this space.”