Campaigns of Distinction: Xbox 360

Jun 20, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill

Special to TelevisionWeek

The media and Internet chat boards are abuzz with talk of the Xbox 360 game console, and the Microsoft gaming platform with high-definition graphics capability won’t even be on the market until the holidays at the earliest.

It takes some dynamic marketing to build such voracious anticipation, which is why Promax this year is honoring the campaign’s mastermind, Bill Nielsen.

“We’ve been building this for three years with the Xbox and with the Halo games,” said Mr. Nielsen, director of Xbox brand marketing for Microsoft. “It was throwing out the old rules of billboards and the usual media and saying what we want is [product] integration.”

Mr. Nielsen has insisted that Xbox promotions be blended into programming content watched by its target audience-males ages 14 to 30. The green room of Fox Sports’ “The Best Damn Sports Show Period,” which is regularly featured on-air, sports an Xbox game, as have programs on MTV, MTV2, G4, Spike, Speed and other cable networks.

“When we first said to the networks that if you want to do business with us, you’ll have to do program integration, most did not take us seriously,” Mr. Nielsen said. “Fox jumped in right away, and others have followed. And we’re happy to create a relationship with newer channels such as Speed and other digital tier networks before they’re established.

“Our target audience doesn’t watch TV commercials. They do other things when they come on. We will supplement our campaign with traditional media, but our product was made for digital ads in cinemas, which are switching to digital from film projection.”

The Xbox campaign reached something of a zenith when Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, was featured on the cover of the May 23 issue of Time, fronting an article about Xbox mania.

“Our PR people did a great job, but let’s be honest,” Mr. Nielsen said. “When you have Bill Gates, you have leverage. We would not have gotten the cover without him.”

That may be true, but those who work with Mr. Nielsen sing his praises nevertheless.

“The guy’s a genius,” said Dale Hopkins, senior VP of distribution and sales for G4. “Aside from the fact that he has us clamoring to buy a product not yet on the market, he’s moved Xbox beyond the games and into the greater culture.”

Bill Nielsen

Title: Director, Xbox brand marketing, Microsoft

How long in current position: Since 2003

Year of birth: 1954

Place of birth: Grand Rapids, Mich.

Who knew? During winter, he sometimes works from home after 4 p.m. so he can watch his alma mater, Michigan