Promo Man: The Cross Promo Post
Apparently a draft of this post has been sitting around since 2015, so forgive me, I have no idea what my angle was back then. It looks like I was rounding up a handful of scans that all featured cross-promotions with brands that are pretty far afield of gaming including network television, hotel chains, and personal grooming items. Whether that’s what I had in mind or not, I ran with the concept and filled in the blanks below with some backstory and my own memories surrounding each item.
Software Etc. & Bubsy’s “Watch ‘N Win Contest” – 1993
Oh Bubsy, what could possibly go wrong? Time has answered that question over and over again but in 1993, just months after his SNES and Genesis debut, his fate wasn’t quite so certain. After months of hype for the game Bubsy was next due to star in an animated series and retail games shop, Software Etc., was there for a collab between publisher Accolade and Calico Studios, the animation shop behind the upcoming show.
This little two-page pamphlet was circulated through Software Etc. stores enticing knee-high shoppers to tune into the premier — *check your local listings for actual times and dates — for a chance to win a trip to Hollywood and a tour of Calico’s animation studio. Runners-up could win “the shirt off Bubsy’s back” or an iron-on patch. An official Bubsy T-shirt would be fabulously nerdy couture to sport nowadays.
The catch? You have to have tuned into the Thanksgiving pilot episode and written down the names of at least three of the show’s characters. If you’re the grand prize winner you also have a one-month window in the Spring of 1994 to take the trip. Hope your family is ok with missing school and work for a week.
I wasn’t a big enough Bub-head to be dead-set on catching the premier but I do remember having a hard time figuring out when and where to watch it in my hometown or even if I missed it entirely. Honestly, I still haven’t watched the entire thing but from the intro that I just caught it seems plenty painful.
“Kids Go HoJo with Sega” – 1993
I can’t point to any reasons why but even as a child I had a well-established fondness for the Howard Johnson chain of hotels. Whatever it was, this promotion with Sega surely solidified it in my head as a COOL hotel for COOL kids. Being handed a free Game Gear for the duration of your stay along with comics and toys “jammed full of Sonic stuff” sounds like a fantastic offer to this day.
I looked through the issues of Sega Visions from 1993 and couldn’t find any more info on what exactly was included or if the hotels actually had hardware stocked and ready to sell as the wording suggests. I did notice that as the summer months went on the ads got more and more fine print in the corner. Mostly copyright info, it did eventually confirm that the promotion ran from May 28th through September 6th, 1993 and later instituted a “1 FunPack per child per stay” rule. Even in the 90s people were out there hustlin’ on free promos.
NBC / Blockbuster Video / Virtual Boy
“Must See 3-D” Sweepstakes – 1995
Wikipedia has the details on this one boiled down so well that I’m just going to let them tell you the story: “Challenged by showing 3-dimensional gameplay on 2-dimensional advertisements, the company partnered with Blockbuster and NBC. A $5 million campaign promoted NBC’s late 1995 lineup alongside the Virtual Boy. American viewers were encouraged via television advertisements on NBC to rent the console for $10 at a local Blockbuster. This affordable demonstration provided 750,000 consoles for rent, some in a clamshell Blockbuster case. Upon returning the unit, renters received a coupon for $10 off its purchase from any store. The promotion included 3,000 Blockbuster locations, and sweepstakes with prizes including trips to see the taping of NBC shows.”
I either picked this pamphlet up at Blockbuster Video or at Best Buy but I never tuned into ‘Must See TV’ that year as that lineup was trash. Unfortunately, that means I missed whatever ads they ran alongside the shows to try and explain the Virtual Boy concept. I did find a 20-second spot that promoted the Blockbuster rental but for $5 million I sure hope they produced a little more content than that. Likely in the same season they also ran this ad for Wario Land and the maniacally 90’s ‘Play it Loud’ ads (1)(2).
I never took them up on the rental offer as I distinctly remember trying the demo unit at Best Buy and pulling my face away from it with a giant headache.
Prince of Persia Gillette Mach3 Turbo
This one isn’t a scan of my own but it is a rare piece of dumb gaming ephemera that I’ve cherished for years, so here it is. In 2004, shortly before Ubisoft revealed the Prince’s darker and hairier appearance for Warrior Within, they licensed his innocent and clean-shaven visage to Gillette in France for a Mach3 Turbo promotion. I loved his smug, shit-eating grin and his perfectly shaven appearance. It’s totally accurate to his character at the beginning of The Sands of Time and, probably unintentionally, a fitting face for a Gillette ad.
I couldn’t find a higher quality version of the packaging but I did come across a couple of interesting things. The mail-in CD-ROM touted on the package has been preserved over on Archive.org and it surprisingly includes the full versions of both the original Prince of Persia on PC and its follow-up, Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame. You just get to have those games because you bought some shaving cream in France. It suddenly seems so wild nowadays to think that there wasn’t DRM involved or a monthly subscription service. Just two classic PC games, on a disc, for you, forever.
Also on that disc is a collection of desktop wallpaper images, one with a much higher-res version of the Prince’s ‘Gillette face’ and a second that comically replaces him with the razor itself. Who on Earth ever actually used that as their wallpaper?
P.S. I briefly set those two images as my dual screen wallpapers but quickly switched it back.
Gillette Game Room – 2008
I don’t remember Gillette doing much more with games until around 2008 when they had one of the many sponsored vehicles in Burnout Paradise. There must’ve been a gamer (or more likely a parent of a gamer) on the marketing team because this would also be the year that Gillette launched the Gillette Game Room website. I certainly never visited it myself so all I have to go on are the remnants over at Archive.org.
Captures are pretty sparse with only a black background and three links to the kinds of content touted in the print ad; an “EA Insider” feature which makes sense given that they just worked with EA and Burnout Paradise, a “Behind the Scenes” feature, and a Mario Kart strategy guide. Surprisingly, those three links redirect to various sections of GameSpot.com with at least one video page exclusively made for Gillette. Sadly, I couldn’t find the video itself.
Was this ad some diabolical and clandestine attempt to sway readers of EGM away from egmnow.com and over to GameSpot? Highly unlikely. Gillette probably had a grander website in mind with their own exclusive content surrounded by advertising for their various personal care products. But what probably happened is that the budget boiled down to a quick-and-dirty deal to simply link out to GameSpot and that clarification was conveniently left out of the ad’s fine print.
However it came about, the endeavor didn’t pan out and after a brief bout of downtime with a “coming back soon” page the entire concept was apparently abandoned by early 2009. In 2010 the Game Room URL redirected to Gillette’s current promo based around up and coming NASCAR drivers.
I did find one other mention of the site from as late as 2009. Thanks to a knock-off Mega Man character standing next to the Gillette Game Room logo it got preserved in a post over on Rockman Corner. Not much more info than that but it does imply that Gillette spent some money to advertise the site online and not just in print.
Sanyo Eneloop – 2007
This one isn’t a cross-promo between a brand and a publisher but it always stood out to me for its simplicity and effectiveness: copy and paste some generic Cool-Guy Gun-Man, slap on a tagline, call it a day.
That the phrase “Ideal for digital cameras” is still visible on the packaging is telling that Sanyo was pushing beyond their demographic here and I respected it. These kinds of rechargeables were indispensable during those years when I was heavy into Xbox 360 and Wii. In comparison, Sony has tripled down on irreplaceable batteries and it’s still a terrible shame.