Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone. One of the most talked about ads of the Super Bowl features our favorite subject, Nintendo. Garnering over 4 million views on YouTube and tens of millions of views on the most-watched television event in America, none would call this ad a flop.
However, what does that mean for the content of the ad itself? Let’s take a look!
The ad starts off with Kevin in bed. Did they name him Kevin? Too bad, he looks like a Kevin. The ad starts off with our dear friend Kevin in bed – well, technically it starts with a Nintendo Switch logo. It appears that Kevin had a long night of playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild before going to bed, a scenario that is not too unfamiliar to this writer. The Nintendo Switch allows Kevin to immediately hop back into the game right where he left off.
Kevin rejoins his adventure and takes it with him as he starts his morning. In bed? Sure. While cooking? Why not? Eating breakfast? It doesn’t show it, but Kevin is a gamer, nothing will stop Kevin! With the inconveniences of the morning behind him, Kevin enters the living room and decides to continue playing, now from the comfort of his couch and the larger visage of his television screen. He switches it up, if you will. Cue the b-roll and display the system. Roll credits!
Now if only putting together an ad was as easy as transcribing an ad. There are much deeper questions lurking just behind the surface, questions brought up by men in boardrooms that want to convey the message of their product. Let’s delve into these questions.
What does the advertisement say about the system? Obviously, the most important message about the Switch is that you can switch your play style. At 15 seconds in, Kevin places the handheld system he had brought around his home into the dock to switch to console mode. The music changes and becomes epic, instilling a sense of grandeur in the decision he made. At 17 seconds, the TV becomes the focal point and shortly after the game rolls. We jump back to Kevin and his Pro Controller for merely a second before we leave him behind for some beautiful Zelda b-roll.
To gamers, Nintendo has marketed the Switch as a console that you can take with you, backed up by multiple comments Tatsumi Kimishima, President of Nintendo, has made to the press. This ad tells a different story. For 15 seconds, half of the 30 second spot, we see Kevin playing the game as if it were a handheld. In advertising, first impressions are everything. The first impression this ad gives us is that the Nintendo Switch is a handheld. It is not until seventeen seconds through the advertisement we first see the Switch as a console. And even then, it is only for 3 seconds before switching to b-roll. This leaves the impression that the Switch is a handheld you can dock at home.
Given Kimishima’s comments, why would Nintendo of America advertise the Switch as a handheld first? Numbers don’t lie. The 3DS family has sold over 65 million units worldwide and the Wii U sold just over 13 million. The handheld market is vastly less saturated than the home console market. While Kimishima has been busy re-iterating that the 3DS will not be killed off, it is as plain as the eye can see that the goal of the Switch is to capture the handheld market Nintendo has long since conquered.
It must be remembered who the target demographic is for this ad. The Super Bowl is primarily watched by older, middle to upper income households. This is not someone who is religiously keeping up on gaming news. The main objective is to try to capture the viewer’s interest and leave them with a thought. With the musical cues accompanying the docking of the Switch, the viewer will definitively remember the transition from handheld to console, the major focus of the entire system. People will remember The Legend of Zelda, which they likely grew up playing, being available at their fingertips. If they want more information than this 30 seconds provide, which the Google Trends indicate they definitively did, they can go online and search for it.
Nintendo also learned a valuable casting lesson for this ad. Children do not want what children have, children want to be cool like adults. Adults do not want to play what children are playing, it would make them seem childish. For the children watching this ad, seeing a young adult male playing the Switch make it that much more desirable. Coupled with the stylized graphics of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, this was a more effective piece for children than any other recent endeavor. For the adults watching this ad, it shows the youthful nature of the mid-20s that adults yearn to recapture and shows that Nintendo is not just for children. By going with this age of an actor, Nintendo markets to each demographic while not isolating any other.
This ad was not meant for you and me. That being said, I thought it was a marketing master class. It did everything a 30-second console reveal spot should. Nintendo hit a home run here for the average American, just as they did for the gamer with the Switch reveal video. If this video and Nintendo of Europe’s marketing are any indication of the massive media campaign Nintendo has said they will be undertaking, then this may very well be the best marketing campaign Nintendo has executed.