The “Holy Alliance”
How “Suits” and “Creatives” Can
Make Great Games Together
Bing Gordon March 2004
“Size and Creativity is a Lethal Combination”
• Ogilvy and Mather
Motion picture: 2/8
• Dreamworks, New Line
Pop music: 1/5
• Nintendo, EA
Started late: 39 years
Expelled from Oxford
• "for his indifference"
Social worker in Edinburgh
Chef's apprentice in Paris
Door-to-door salesman in England
Researcher for Gallup in America
British intelligence WW2
Ogilvy’s Brand-Building Success
American Express Rolls-Royce
Shell Hathaway Shirts
Dove Puerto Rico
Or, What I learned from David Ogilvy
How to Build an Effective
Ogilvy on company building
I have come to the conclusion that
the top man has one principle
responsibility: to provide an
atmosphere in which creative
mavericks can do useful work.
- David Ogilvy
Teamwork is a habit
Ogilvy & Mather “Other” Ad Agency
Share raw data Communicate by
Socialize Separate floors
Iterative strategy Approve strategy,
then start creative
“Magic Lanterns” Headhunting
The Ogilvy Philosophy
Ogilvy on culture
Only first class business, and that
in a first class way.
I despise toadies who suck up to
their bosses; they are generally
the same people who bully their
Marketing Whines Development Whines
They‟re “slipping”! Retailers won‟t take
They won‟t show it to risks.
Retailers don‟t get it.
They won‟t listen to the
They use research
They don‟t appreciate us. too much.
They don‟t appreciate
Ogilvy on Mission
Ogilvy & Mather does two things: We
look after clients and we teach young
Master teaching: “Magic Lanterns”
By leaders. For all new employees.
"Ogilvy & Mather has created over 650 million
dollars worth of travel advertising on behalf of
our clients. Here is what we've learned."
Dozens of different "rules."
• “Always make sure to show the food in motion."
But "Rules are for the obedience of fools. And the
guidance of wise men."
My favorite Magic Lantern
How to compete with Procter and
Provably 20% better.
Read their test markets.
Attack their test markets.
5 Ways to Tell if Your Company is
Structured for Teamwork
1. “Shadow of the Leader”
2. Equal representation on top team.
3. Teamwork values “on the walls”.
4. Can people describe team roles?
5. Visual signs of appreciation.
Ogilvy on Executives
In most agencies, account
executives outnumber the
copywriters two to one.
If you were a dairy farmer, would
you employ twice as many
milkers as you had cows?
Or, How Advertising Principles Translate to Games
How to Succeed as an EA
Exec VP Marketing, Ret.
“The relationship between a
manufacturer and his advertising
agency is almost as intimate as the
relationship between a patient and his
“Between marketing and studio people,
- Bing Gordon
Marketing Team Development Team
Customer mgmt. Category choice
Channel mgmt. Design
Marcom Quality execution
License acquisition License management
Ship date Final date
• Category • Marcom
• Quality definers
Highest “marketing” leverage is quality.
Quality drives sales
• +5% metacritic= +50-100% sales
• Within category
Marketing adds leverage
• License +0-30%
• Marcom +0-30%
• Ship date +-30%
Source: 1996-1998 top 50 US hits. Bing
Advertising is only a multiplier.
Paper Boy: “the only measurable sales
spike from advertising.”
• Toys R Us exec, Genesis era.
2 biggest hits launched mostly by PR.
5 “Quality Definers” from Marketing
1. “This is the year of Real Physics.”
2. “T-Rex level needs to be early.”
3. “Freestyle is bigger than right analog
4. “They want the interface to be Tamogotchi,
5. “Designed by John Madden.”
Chuck Yeager Flight Trainer
Forecast was: Not Top 20
Added 1 day work
• Improved plane shape in trail
• Added Chuck taunts at failure
Payoff: EA‟s first number 1
Advertising people who ignore
research are as dangerous as
generals who ignore decodes of
- David Ogilvy
Never stop testing, and your
advertising will never stop
The most important word in the
vocabulary of advertising is TEST.
How to Succeed with Concept Testing
5 on 5 Pro Basketball was
top-rated concept in 1987.
• “Very interesting” had 80% correlation
with Top 20 best-sellers.
Pets was the most requested
feature on thesims.com in 2002.
How to fail without Package testing
1988, 90% of basketball gamers DID NOT
pick up the sequel game package.
Guess we should have tested.
On the average, five times as many
people read the headline as read the body
On the average, four times as many
people remember the screenshots as read
the body copy.
- Bing G
How to succeed with Previsualization
In 1991, producers refused to put a
consistent branding across
Madden, NHL, Lakers….
until Don Transeth showed them T-
shirts with the new logo: EASN.
In 2001, it was a lot easier.
I once used the word
OBSOLETE in a headline,
only to discover that 43
per cent of housewives had
no idea what it meant.
In another headline, I used
the word INEFFABLE, only
to discover that I didn't
know what it meant
Big ideas are usually simple ideas.
It takes a big idea to attract the attention
of consumers and get them to buy your
product. Unless your advertising contains
a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the
Rolls Royce sales increased 50%.
Ogilvy’s 5 Rules to Judge Big Ideas
1. Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
2. Do I wish I had thought of it myself
3. Is it unique?
4. Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
5. Could it be used for 30 years?
The Schweppes brand
brief was a short
How to inspire your Developers
Immerse them in
Show them the
Take them to a movie.
Write a short story.
When people aren‟t having any fun, they seldom
produce good advertising. Kill grimness with
laughter. Encourage exuberance. Get rid of sad
dogs who spread gloom.
- David Ogilvy
The first rule of brainstorming:
- Rory Armes
The best ideas come as jokes. Make
your thinking as funny as possible.
You can‟t entertain „em if you‟re not
laughing when you make it.
Are your development meetings fun?
How to succeed as an (account executive)
Know more about the client‟s
business than he does.
Use his product.
From “Confessions of an Advertising Man”, David
Studio Praises Marketers who..
“Feels like part of the studio…”
“Understands our customer…”
“Backs up with research data…”
“Gives and takes early input…”
“Works for our forecasts…”
“Creative solutions on business issues…”
“Makes the game better…”
What studios hate
“Doesn‟t even play our game…”
“Doesn‟t challenge our bad ideas…”
“Doesn‟t know our competition…”
“Doesn‟t show us ads/packages…”
“Doesn‟t seek our input…”
“Surprise requests for
“Tries to be the producer…”
"Do not compete with your agency in
the creative area. Why keep a dog
and bark yourself?
NOT: “I really feel that your
character would look better in a blue
BUT: “74% of your customers tell us
their favorite color is blue.”
It didn’t work out…
“That new marketing manager might
be a cool cat, but it always felt like
he was trying to make me his bitch.”
Or, How I Copywriters Learned to Work with Me
Married to the Mob
Chief Creative Officer
If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative.
What he said.
In the modern world of business, it is
useless to be a creative, original
thinker unless you can also sell what
- David Ogilvy
Treat your marketing team like
Ogilvy on Creative Structures
Shakespeare wrote his sonnets within a
strict discipline, fourteen lines of iambic
pentameter, rhyming in three quatrains
and a couplet. Were his sonnets dull?
Mozart wrote his sonatas within an equally
rigid discipline - exposition, development,
and recapitulation. Were they dull?
Ogilvy’s Print Ad starter format
in that order.
5 Researchable Ideas for Game Structures
1. Click pressure: clicks per minute.
2. Time between excitements.
3. Graphable save game data.
4. Beta web page clicks.
5. Online play stats.
Importance of Graphic User Interface
I have seen a new beer label
cause 30% sales increase.
“Golden” Sim City 3000 GUI.
NASCAR “draft meter” tripled
Learning about Openings
If you grab attention in the first frame with a visual
surprise, you stand a better chance of holding the viewer.
People screen out a lot of commercials because they open
with something dull... When you advertise fire-
extinguishers, open with the fire.
- David Ogilvy
Viewer satisfaction in the first 30 seconds adds or subtracts
10% from the final audience rating score of a Hollywood
Learning about killer apps
Demo the Hardware
• Sonic the Hedgehog (speed)
• Mario 64 (3D)
• Myst (cd)
• Madden Football (sports sims)
• Doom (fps)
• Command and Conquer (RTS)
New Audience needs
• Grand Theft Auto (M)
• Sims (females)
• Road Rash (rock video
• Twisted Metal (“You are not
• Halo (“Life is short”)
• Final Fantasy (“Emotion Engine”)
Make research work for you.
I‟ve seen ideas so wild
nobody would dare use
showed they would work.
- David Ogilvy
How to wreck a sequel
1. Add complexity.
• More buttons, more sub-systems, more sub-features
2. Increase difficulty.
• for players who beat previous version
• for expert reviewers
3. Forecast sales too high.
4. Go Stale.
• from tired, but proud original designer
5. “Not Invented Here” syndrome
• New team gets too creative
Good rule of thumb: 1/3 new, 1/3 improved, 1/3 the same
How to make products TV-ready
• A key-frame or animation
• Suggests positioning
6 months before launch!
Idea: put a film-maker on staff.
5 Rules of Entertainment Marketing
1. Early adopters decide up to 6 months early.
2. “HIT” is most important position to
3. “Street date” increases retailer purchases by up
4. “I‟ll buy it later” means “never”.
5. “All hits are surprises”.
Developers have a different biorhythm.
• Annual vs. seasonal deliveries
• Daily progress checks
• 10x interdependencies
Studio designs from the inside out.
• Art direction
• Emergent systems
Studio takes more risks.
Layoffs based on failure.
Names are on the game.
10-15 projects per career.
Studio has time and management
Engineers write 15x lines of code
than industry average!
Artists, designers 1x output, but
worse tools, and realtime.
Producers manage ¼ production
budget but changing pipelines and
Studio is one
Artists = Artists
Designers = Poets
Avatars = Celebrities
Producers = Auteurs
Engineers = Car mechanics
Marketing has positioning pressure
Marketing has unusual pressure
on insight, not time.
More than any other consumer
category: game marketers don‟t
know what they have, till almost
1/3 of games are “Problem Products”
Failure of position.
Failure of marketing imagination.
Avoid the Blame Game!
We have common cultures
We all love games.
We agree that commerce defines
We all are winners.
And we all want to get better.
Set exorbitant standards, and
give your people hell when they
don't live up to them.
There is nothing so demoralizing
as a boss who tolerates second
Hire people who are better than you
are, then leave them to get on with
Look for people who will aim for the
I met Ogilvy once…
in his signature red suspenders…
came into my office…
after just winning the first Clio…
for California First Bank…
and he said….
“If you‟re such a bright guy, that
can‟t be very interesting work.”
So I joined Amazin‟ Software
So Let’s Get Down to Business
Many people - and I think I am one
of them - are more productive when
they've had a little to drink. I find if I
drink two or three brandies, I'm far
better able to write.