A Look Back at Sony’s Bizarre PS3 Advertising

Sony’s recent PS3 commercials are straightforward, clever, and actually sell you the product – but they weren’t always this way. Let’s take a look back at some of Sony’s more, uh, unusual ad campaigns for its PlayStation 3.

Yesterday, we saw the first new commercials in Sony’s push to make North American consumers aware of the PS3 Slim, and, we liked them. They were funny, they did a good job at communicating the good points of Sony’s black not-quite-such-a-monolith, and they were something that you could show your non-gamer friends and go, “Yeah, see this? You should get one!”

Unfortunately, Sony’s brush of straightforward, lucid advertising – see its European commercials – is very much a recent thing. Even if we just concentrate on PS3 advertisements (and ignore the wince-worthy “Squirrel, please!” and “All I Want For Christmas is a PSP” campaigns for the PlayStation Portable), we’ve seen some fairly odd things from Sony since the PS3’s 2006 launch. Frankly, it’s no wonder we may have blocked them from our memory.

The early ad campaigns in the States for the PS3 featured Sony’s sleek black George Foreman grill in a white, featureless room. To their credit, though, some of the ads in this series did a good job at displaying the visual potential of the PS3 or the capabilities of the Sixaxis controller. Others, though? Not so much.

While the Rubik’s Cube commercial, though odd, managed to get the idea across that the PS3’s Cell chip was beastly, I can only wonder at some of the others. Can the Sixaxis really make eggs crash into the wall and turn into birds? The creepiest of this early line, though, was undoubtedly the “Baby” commercial. What are we supposed to get out of that, huh? That the PS3 will make creepy baby dolls cry, retract their tears, and confuse it with their mother? That’s terrifying.

Yet even the PS3 Baby commercial isn’t the most bizarre (and unsettling) advertisement Sony unleashed on the world for the PS3. How about the “This is Living” ads, where a naked Russian man lying in a bathtub in a darkened room challenged viewers to think about their lives before pulling a gun on them and cackling. Oh, sure, it might get the viewer to consider the mediocrity of his or her own life, but will it get them to buy a PlayStation?

Nor was the Creepy-Russian-Man-in-Tub the crowning moment of “What the Jesus?” for Sony’s PS3 marketing department. It wasn’t even the most disturbing PS3 ad involving a naked man, either. No, that honor actually goes to a print advertisement out of Vienna, where a seated naked man has had his penis replaced by a thumb (NSFW, Disturbing). I don’t even know what they were going for here. “Hey, you’re a gamer, replace your sex life with games?” “Gamers have small dicks?” What on Earth?

Thankfully, they weren’t all thumb-penis Photoshops. Hell, they weren’t all clunkers, either – for reference, take a look at the minute-long “Universe of Entertainment” spot. Still stylish (and with a bizarre fondness for morphing the PS3’s frame) and still unique, but it displays the PS3’s capabilities in a cool-looking way that, more importantly, results in no mental scarring whatsoever.

Of course, on the flip side, it looks like Sony’s marketers haven’t gotten the bizarre ads out of their system, either. Still, it’s hard to argue that they’re not on the right track here. You might have a great little system, guys, but it’s a good thing that you learned to lay off the avant-garde.

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