The heralded and hideous ad campaign of Call of Duty
To civilian gamers and journalists, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 commercial starring Jonah Hill and Sam Worthington is an instant classic. The video, by 72andsunny, features the two A-list movie stars gleefully battling their way through war-torn New York geared up with army vests and kick-ass weaponry. When Tim Nudd featured the spot in November as the Adweek Ad of the Day in November, the video had already amassed 2 million views on YouTube.
But to writer and Afghanistan vet DB Grady, the commercial is “hideous.” “The advertisement trivializes combat and sanitizes war,” Grady wrote in the Atlantic. He invites readers to think about the “stupidity” of the commercial as he describes the real-life heroics of a real-life soldier in a real-life war. And he makes a valid point. On some level, the ad trivializes and sanitizes the perils of real warfare. And it’s not the first Call of Duty spot to do so. 2010’s Black Ops ad from TBWA\Chiat\Day offers a similar interpretation of the “There’s a soldier in all of us” slogan, with normal looking people (and Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel) waging war in street clothes.
AdFreak’s David Gianatasio suggests that the Modern Warfare 3 video isn’t even the most santized version of war being sold to the public. “The violent though admittedly sanitized action,” he writes, “might even be slightly more indicative of the actual Army experience (and in some ways seems no crasser) than the military’s rah-rah recruitment campaigns that tout technical training and college tuition while steering clear of bloodshed and body bags.” Geoffrey Tim of lazygamer agrees: “it’s not as if Call of Duty or other similar shooters make the military more glamorous than real-life recruitment propaganda.”
But gamers know the difference between fantasy and reality, right? GameKudos’s Joseph Regan says he had no question about the ad campaign’s intended tone:
Personally, when I first saw the ad, I saw it as intentionally camp, not a genuine attempt to make battle look fun. But all the same, his points are valid and he has made it clear enough his only beef is with the commercial itself. Still, it begs the question- how would we sell a game about war unless we made war look fun? And furthermore, if we’re worried about that, should we even be making games about war in the first place?
As of today, the commercial, entitled “The Vet & The n00b,” has been viewed over 20 million times on YouTube and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has sold over 20 million copies for both XBOX360 and PS3.