Where Alice Does Live – Brief Article

Todd Wasserman

Videogamer Electronic Arts had one very large obstacle when it came to marketing its American McGee’s Alice title: No one under 17 was supposed to buy it.

Teens do buy videogames, particularly violent games, and EA’s wicked twist on Lewis Carroll’s fairy tale Alice in Wonderland–featuring an evil Queen of Hearts and an Alice traumatized by the death of her parents in a fire–would seem to fit the bill. But the Redwood City Calif.-based interactive entertainment software company is one of the main proponents of self-regulation via the Entertainment Software Rating Board, and marketers agreed that throwing caution to the wind would have been ill-advised.

There were other obstacles. Videogames are sold on “street buzz,” and creating that kind of buzz can be tricky There’s nothing worse than trying to look hip when you’re not. You’ve got to “keep it real,” as they say.

Noreen Dante, EA’s senior promotions manager, found a way to overcome the hurdles. Recognizing an overlap between club kids and gamers, she arranged to put Alice in clubs that play house music. Not only is that audience over 21, but the environment is less likely to be focused on alcohol than traditional clubs. “We didn’t want to associate with traditional clubs,” said Dante. “The house music scene is very different from the club scene, at least when was in it.”

Noting the correlation with clubgoers was one thing, but finding an effective way to reach the title’s demographic was another. “I hate going to a club where there are two or three garners gathered around a kiosk,” said Dante.

So, rather than just setting up demonstration areas, she made Alice the center of the show.

Contacting friends at Warner Bros. Records, Dante got WB artist Green Velvet to sign on for a six-city tour dubbed the Alice Wicked Wonderland Tour. Green Velvet, who operates with an alter ego, Casjmere, managed to weave a pitch for Alice into his spoken-word performances under the guise of an Alice in Wonderland theme party Dante said the idea was to get clubgoers “intrigued by the storyline and music, as opposed to marketing to them.”

Towards this end, the parties were devoid of banners or other obvious promotional materials. Instead, still and moving game images were projected onto the walls and pre-selected objects like oversized balloons and stretched screens. Using gobo lights (which use glass plates placed against a high-intensity light source) and computer technology the images were synchronized to a techno music beat.

Meanwhile, club employees were outfitted with Alice T-shirts and beanie caps. When the clubbers left, they’d get an Alice CD-ROM and a fan kit, including a Making of Alice video, an Alice gameplay video and an Alice screensaver, plus a $5-off coupon at retailer Best Buy. In all, some 50,000 discount coupons were distributed.

To buttress the effort, Dante hired street teams to talk up the release. At some 30 targeted colleges, EA’s campus reps promoted the tour via local e-mail and gaming parties. The effort also included ads in alternative weekly papers prior to the events, while Spin magazine sent out “rave cards” announcing the tour plus online support from the now-defunct Gamers.com. As a result, more than 12,000 clubgoers attended the tour, and shows in New York, Los Angeles and Washington were sold out.

Since the game was released only in December, it’s too early to tell if Alice will grow beyond its initial cult status, but the marketing initiatives have already netted 45,000 unique hits to Alice’s Web site and 54,000 listener hits via radio. Clearly it’s in the game.

CATEGORY: Local, Regional, or Target/Ethnic Market Promotion (Under $500,000)

PROGRAM: Alice Wicked Wonderland Tour

MARKETER: Electronic Arts, Redwood City, Calif.

AGENCY: In-house


Noreen Dante, senior promotions manager

Gaylene Nagel, lifestyle marketing manager

Jonathon Harris, product manager

American McGee, creator

COPYRIGHT 2001 BPI Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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