Video game enthusiasts got their first look at gameplay for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 yesterday. And with the franchise back in the spotlight, now is a good time to look back at some of the most creative and fun advertisements it has released over the years.
Yesterday, The Loftus Party published an exciting post on the new trailers for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, which is set for release on Oct. 12. And that made me think about the unique and effective advertisements the Call of Duty franchise has put out for nearly ten years. So here’s a look back at five of the best of them.
“There’s a Soldier in All of Us” [Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010—video at top)] – Call of Duty is a relatively old franchise. It established itself as a brand by focusing on World War II for its first few releases. Then it moved into modern warfare. And while Call of Duty: Black Ops wasn’t its first modern warfare entry, it’s arguable that this game marked the point where the franchise became more known for its modern warfare releases than its WWII releases. Specifically, it was this commercial that shifted how I thought of the series. Furthermore, the ad was unique and emphasized that people of all different backgrounds could enjoy the game. “Gimme Shelter” (oft-used for military-themed entertainment) from The Rolling Stones probably helped make it effective marketing too.
“The Vet & the n00b” [Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)] – Openly editable general reference sites list this entry as having a 2011 release date even as the official Call of Duty YouTube page lists this commercial as having been released in April of 2012. This might not be a discrepancy and even if it is, it’s irrelevant for this discussion. The ad teams up Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill for a fast-paced and amusing mini-tale that encourages everyone to give the game a try even if you’re a newbie. AC/DC providing the background music works perfectly with it all.
“Surprise” [Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (2012)] – This is one of my favorite Call of Duty ads. They’re all creative but this is among the most creative of them, with the mini storyline doing a nice job of completing a circle. And the commercial smartly incorporates its celebrities. Sometimes when ads (or movies) are trying to top their previous efforts, they throw in a bunch of familiar faces and it feels forced or worn-out. Not so in this case.
“Epic Night Out” [Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013)] – This ad features a group of average Joes (at least I don’t recognize any of the main actors) and one celebrity (Megan Fox). And this might be one of the best casting decisions of the series of Call of Duty commercials. People naturally like celebrities, but they also like relatable people onscreen. So when you have a relatable main cast get to meet up with a celebrity after a series of battles, it’s appealing. On top of that, the choice to use a Frank Sinatra song for the background music (instead of a rock song) is unique, and it makes for a memorable experience.
“Discover Your Power” [Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014)] – One of the fastest paced ads of them all. Great use of Taylor Kitsch. On top of this, the commercial shows that even as the game is set in the future, it isn’t indulging in fantasy. The tech featured in it (such as the swarm of drones) is something that people are currently forecasting. Use of a first-person POV is a perfect choice too.
And that wraps up this post. Regardless of the quality of each of the games mentioned here, the marketing folks did their jobs when it came to these ads. As long as the Call of Duty franchise continues, we’ll probably see more catchy ones in the future.