Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg says the controversy over Kobe Bryant’s appearance in a Call of Duty: Black Ops ad is “very hypocritical” and wonders if the same stink would be raised if he showed up in a promo for a new Tom Clancy movie.
Kobe Bryant’s appearance in the Black Ops ad “There’s a Solder In All Of Us,” in which he grins like a goof and bloops a grenade into the action, didn’t go over well with a lot of people, including a couple of commenters at the sports network ESPN. Tim Keown called it “one of the most irresponsible messages in the history of advertising,” while 1st and 10 co-host Bomani Jones said, “If we’re really talking about what’s problematic and destructive, they put out six million copies of this videogame, as I understand it, thus far, and all we’re doing is shooting and killing people.”
It’s been a couple of weeks since those comments were made, but Hirshberg isn’t ready to let it go just yet. He acknowledged that just about any advertising for a game like Black Ops will have “some measure of controversy baked into it” but accused networks complaining about the ad of hypocrisy.
“Those same networks that are now questioning Kobe’s inclusion in this had no problem accepting the ad and approving the ad, and accepting the dollars to run the ad on their networks,” he told IndustryGamers. “Are they being irresponsible to their fan base by running the ad on their networks? Because if it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. I find that to be very hypocritical.”
Hirshberg believes that some of that attitude stems directly from the fact that the ad was for a videogame and that it wouldn’t be an issue for other media. “There’s a little bit of a maturation process going on for videogames overall where certain people still don’t see them as mainstream entertainment, but I wonder if Kobe or Jimmy Kimmel had been involved for the marketing of a new Tom Clancy movie if they would have gotten the same response,” he continued. “I feel like this is still seen by some people as some sort of subculture or niche product, and the performance in the marketplace demonstrates that this is the epicenter of mainstream entertainment.”
For the record, I still think the ad is awesome.