Cracking the Code with PS4

In the space of a console generation, Xbox took the market lead and left Sony Playstation in danger of becoming a heritage brand. What was needed was a hard working communications strategy : Sony had to use social media buzz to drive stand out amongst 1634s and make gamers choose the PS4 in the all-important Christmas head to head – they needed to win over the hearts and minds of mainstream gamers and reignite the once iconic Playstation brand. The objectives were simple : achieve 80% awareness of PS4 at launch, raise purchase intent from 4% to 12% and most importantly sell more consoles than Xbox!

Two creative leaders came together in an innovative and unique partnership to launch the PS4. We created a gamified launch weekend on Channel 4 : viewers were asked , for the first time, to pause and rewind ad breaks in order to crack codes to win PS4s. The codes were based on Playstation’s iconic symbols and entry was via a bespoke PS4 branded microsite and via twitter. This was the first ever live dual screen competition to run on Channel 4, encouraging viewers to play along live for their chance to win a Playstation 4. Working with game developers, Channel 4 broke new ground with its idents, and for the first time created bespoke versions, that seamlessly incorporated their own brand within custom made PS4 game footage. These played out as a top and tail in key breaks across the launch weekend. All this activity culminated with an ad break takeover in the final episode of Homeland, broadcasting a TV exclusive of Playstation’s ‘1995’ three minute commercial made by Drum which demonstrated the console through the ages.


A key ingredient to making this happen was the early briefing all key stakeholders received from Manning Gottlieb OMD, alongside collaboration and creativity that drove a campaign which worked across multiple platforms. Channel 4 and MGOMD devised the bespoke ‘crack the code’ campaign and Kent Lyons and 4Creative worked with PS4’s game developers to produce the co-branded idents. The microsite hosted a bespoke web app which enabled participants to submit the actual Playstation symbols they saw on screen via Twitter. The competition ran in Agents of Shield, 8 Out of 10 Cats, Charlie Brooker’s How Gaming Changed The World and Homeland.


60,000 people visited the Playstation microsite. Traffic to the site peaked at 8,800 visits during the Charlie Brooker transmission. Over 22,000 people interacted with the campaign using the bespoke competition hashtags. The launch weekend saw it trend above #strictly and #MOTD. Most importantly, due to the partnership between Sony Playstation and Channel 4, this innovative campaign ensured that Playstation outperformed Xbox’s communications. The first week of PS4 sales saw 248,000 units sold compared to Xbox One’s 150,000. By Christmas, PS4 had sold half a million units compared to Xbox One’s 332,000. Playstation 4 has officially become the UK’s fasted selling console of all time.


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