What to learn from Call of Duty’s social media marketing expertise

Call of Duty’s “Warzone in Paradise” advertisement campaign gained nearly 9 million views across several social media influencers. (Image by Activision Blizzard/Call of Duty)

Call of Duty is one of the most popular video game franchises of all time, eclipsing 400 million copies sold by April 2021. But that success did not come by accident. It took industry-leading gameplay, graphics, and, of course — marketing — to achieve that.

Call of Duty has plenty of traditional, made-for-television advertisements that have gained popularity. Their wacky concepts and fun stunts capture the feel of playing a Call of Duty video game. Take the “Seize Glory” trailer, promoting Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

The trailer features notable stars such as Michael B. Jordan, Marshawn Lynch, and Cara Delevingne, who all follow Kevin, a hilariously unassuming man fighting against swarms of enemies in the video game’s setting.

The meshing of familiar faces with the everyman Kevin is perfect, and almost everyone can relate to Kevin, in a way.

“As a Kevin, I approve of this ad,” one commenter wrote.

But recently, Call of Duty has gotten bolder with its ads.

On October 21, 2021, Call of Duty released “Vanguards of Photography,” a social media video to promote the release of Call of Duty: Vanguard. In the video, famous war photojournalists Alex Potter and Sebastiano Piccolomini were immersed in the video game’s world of historic battles and wars. They took pictures with a handheld camera that also served as their portal to the digital world.

The video has amassed over 10 million views on YouTube, and it’s clear why. The idea takes notes from traditional marketing of having recognizable names to promote a product, but it incorporates their skills in an engaging way. It’s one thing for an actor to read off a script about how fun or immersive a game is — it’s another thing to have them test it out themselves.

But nothing compares to what Call of Duty did to promote the Call of Duty: Warzone Pacific video game.

After compiling a group of social media travel influencers, Call of Duty edited unpublished footage of them on a tropical island to make it seem like they were vacationing on an island ravaged by war. Posted around the time of the video game’s launch, the videos gained over 15 million social media impressions.

The social media campaign was also a Silver winner at the 2022 Clio Awards, which celebrates “bold work that propels the advertising industry forward.”

What can be learned from these big-budget social media campaigns? Well, it’s to think about your audience. Call of Duty knew that around half of adults under 40 years old follow at least one travel influencer, and it used that information to efficiently market itself. Depending on what group you are trying to appeal to, certain influencers will be better suited to achieving your goal than others.

And secondly, make something that people want to share. Marketing only through an influencer reaches only as far as its follower count. Making content that is unique and makes consumers want to show their friends is paramount to a solid social media campaign. Social media is the perfect place to spread your advertisements as far as possible, but you have to be smart with where you start.

GosuRabbit is a marketing agency that specialises in providing entertainment, esports and gaming marketing services for brands, businesses and agencies across the globe.

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