Nintendo Levels Up For Summer


Spend quality time with the whole family this summer!


No advertiser dominates a category quite like Nintendo. They account for a staggering 19 out of the top 20 highest-scoring videogame ads on the Test Your Ad platform – including a clean sweep of the Top 10. If this were a game of Mario Kart, Nintendo are doing 3 perfect laps on Rainbow Roads while their competitors are struggling to find the A button.

So there are two interesting questions about Nintendo ads. What makes them so good? And why aren’t their competitors putting up more of a fight? And let’s throw in a third: what makes this latest Leo Burnett ad – showing a family jetting off on holiday, Switches in hand – the best of this week’s UK crop?

The first question – why do Nintendo make the best videogame ads? – is easy to answer. Nintendo makes ads which aren’t about the games, they’re about the people playing the games. Like most videogame commercials, Nintendo ads show plenty of gameplay. But they also zoom out and provide the context to that gameplay – showing families, kids, and players of all ages loving their Switch consoles.

Showing people playing their games works as a product demonstration – the Switch is a console you can use in a lot of different ways. More importantly though, it adds a very human dimension to the brand’s marketing, showing tons of laughter, connection and human between-ness to spark that broad-beam, right-brain attention that’s so useful for boosting effectiveness long-term. Switch ads are full of convincingly happy people, and that makes viewers happy too.

The second question – why don’t Nintendo’s competitors do the same? – is trickier to answer. Most likely it’s a question of positioning. Nintendo has worked for years to position itself as a brand who makes games for friends and families to play and enjoy together, and it reinforces that idea in almost every ad. Its rivals, like Sony, Microsoft, and assorted mobile brands, steer clear of that and appeal to a more hardcore gaming audience with far more gameplay footage from more dramatic, action-oriented games. The problem for those brands is that there’s no real emotional substitute for the context Nintendo load their ads with. Gameplay-heavy ads are ultimately no more than a product demo, and hit the same “3-Star ceiling” other rational, ‘message’ ads do.

Finally, what’s so special about this ad – a 4.2-Star effort with Exceptional short-term Spike ratings? It’s done well because it’s the right ad at the right time – unashamedly a Summer themed commercial, and one that cleverly pitches videogaming as an integrated part of the summer holiday mix. Gaming and outdoor activities are often held up as natural opposites – usually to videogames’ detriment. Not so, say Nintendo – they’re a supplement to a day of adventures, not a replacement. Nintendo’s grip on their advertising category is so strong, they’re able to fight the whole sector’s battles.

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