EA Human Resources Fail: Dante’s Inferno Marketing Team

EA is a monolithic corporation. They have more than enough HR people to screen out unqualified goons, like the geniuses who ran the spectacularly lame Dante’s Inferno “acts of lust” promotion at last week’s San Diego Comic-Con.

If there is one question you NEED to ask marketers before they take a job in your company, that question is “do you understand who buys our shit?” For marketing minions, that is the crucial dealbreaker, above all other criteria. These people are supposedly marketers, and yet they crafted a promotion that doesn’t work on any possible level. Allow me to break down this massive fail into smaller, more digestible (yet still totally incomprehensible) component fails:

  1. The contest asked con folks to “commit acts of lust” with booth babes. This was presumably aimed at the kinds of people who would feel comfortable bothering the good people of boothcake for some kind of posed photo to win a contest. Right there, you have eliminated a ton of people who don’t have the heart to subject the boothcake to further annoyance; and you have mainly attracted the attention of the kinds of people who genuinely DO want to commit acts of lust with the boothcake. However, the contest also warns not to “get crazy” or do anything “depicting or mentioning sex, violence, drugs, alcohol and/or inappropriate language.” So… you get the attention of obnoxious perverts and then you tell us we can’t even mention sex? Just who is this contest targeting?
  2. Ok, the contest is for people who want to win “dinner” (hey, that’s ME!)… and “a sinful night out with two hot girls” (wait… what the hell am I going to do with two hot girls?), and furthermore, “limo service, paparazzi and a chest full of booty” (paparazzi is something people WANT now? really?). Obviously, they think this game will only appeal to an elusive limo-and-hot-girl craving segment of the overall gamer population. Why not give out prizes that, oh, I dunno, a GAMER would want? Like cash, games, consoles, VIP tours of game studios and dinner with the lead design team? Don’t misunderstand: I love boothcake, but are these the kinds of people you really want to win a chaperoned, “just friends” dinner date with? What do you talk about? “Hey, I liked how you managed to smile through most of your shift and you didn’t freak out when that Sailor Moon guy hugged you for way too long.” Granted, I’m a hot girl, so maybe I’m undervaluing the joy of dinner with “two hot girls.”
  3. So therein lies the biggest pile of fail: even though the entire contest concept and execution was completely misguidedly weak, they still had to add insult to injury by assuming the players are all straight, single men desperate for the slightest whiff of tits. Guess what? Not all gamer guys are hard up for opportunities to eat a free meal with a hot girl or two. Not all gamer guys even like-like hot girls. And, though it really truly hurts to have to say this again and again and again: not all gamers are guys. All these pitiful excuses for marketeers had to do was change the word “girls” in the contest promotional copy to “hotties” and then, depending who won, they could have had either the female or the male boothcake (er, “reps” as I guess some people call them) attend the prize dinner.*
  4. The final ounce of fail was their halfass response to the uproar. When all the world is going to forget about this dumb promotion soon anyway, what harm is there in simply saying “Sorry, that was a lame contest!” and moving on with a better, more targeted promotion? Offer prizes that don’t insult your customers and create a contest built around a fun aspect of the brand/game. Don’t tweet ridiculous defensive clarifications, like you’ve just told an off-color joke at a party but think that explaining it in painful, obvious detail will somehow make it less offensive. Apologize, win people back, spin the flood of attention and free publicity back toward positive aspects of the product. These goons couldn’t handle the fallout from their PG-rated “edgy” contest idea, so ultimately I think the root of the fail was HR. Seriously, who hired these goons?

*Yeah, I live in a fantasy world where every game booth has both male and female boothcake on staff. It’s the same world where people get hired to do promotional work because they have some basic understanding of the desires and demographics of their target market. Go figure.

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