Gather ’round, fellow 90s kids, and I will share with you the tale of All That star Lori Beth Denberg’s foray into video game marketing, the role PlanetSide 2 played in her return to acting, and the quest for three fully-produced ads–once thought to be online–that were never officially released.
In the April 28 episode of Denberg’s excellent podcast, Bad Advice with Lori Beth Denberg, she and co-host Clark Crozer discuss six months they spent working together at an ad agency that primarily focused on the game industry. The segment starts around 30 minutes in.
“I’m not a gamer, so it was pretty fun,” Denberg said in the segment.
“One of the things that we really wanted to talk about was a failed campaign,” Crozer says. “When we say failed, we mean like probably–not millions, but hundreds of thousands of dollars lost…”
Crozer and Denberg say the agency (which they don’t name) wrote nearly a dozen scripts, wrote about five revisions for each of the selected three or four scripts, hired a director, performed casting, filmed the “spots” on a sound stage, and assigned Denberg to help oversee editing, all before the client backed out.
“We got all the way to the final cut and showed it to the client,” Crozer said. “They went, ‘ehhh we don’t like it,’ and they never put it out.”
Neither Crozer nor Denberg recalled the company, but they both seemed certain the game was PlanetSide 2. If this campaign was intended to go live before the game’s launch, this would have placed the story in or around 2012 when the publisher was known as Sony Online Entertainment. The publishing entity became known as Daybreak Game Company in early 2015. Daybreak created a studio known as Rogue Planet Games to handle PlanetSide development in 2020. The hosts would have likely remembered if they were working with Sony, so perhaps the marketing was outsourced and later subcontracted–if they’re not just deliberately leaving out Sony’s name.
Crozer and Denberg revealed a bit about the content of the ads and what they believe went wrong.
“The crux of it was that there’s three factions or races or whatever within this game,” says Denberg. “So all of our ideas revolved around three people doing X, three people doing Y. It was all triplicate, and we all know comedy comes in threes. I wrote a couple of them, they liked them, and we went and cast them.”
Denberg says she was excited to see some of her earliest games marketing content produced, but the decision makers didn’t seem to be getting along.
“We’re there on set, the clients are already really unhappy,” Denberg says. “They decided they didn’t like our boss, and they didn’t want him there, so he’s there kinda grumpy.”
“He had to show them that he was going to be there whether they liked it or not,” Crozer added.
Denberg says the client used her script as part of their reason for cancelling.
“There was one that was about military guys, there was one about three pregnant women, and there was one about–I think we called it ‘patent,’ and it was about a guy that had a robot sex doll,” says Crozer.
“And I wrote that one,” adds Denberg. “So it was a robot sex doll written by a woman, and they’d approved it, and then afterwards that was part of the thing, like, ‘Well this one is offensive and sexist.’ I’m like, who do you think is playing your game? The Gloria Steinem fanbase? They’re not. They play Call of Duty…”
Despite the project’s disappointing conclusion, Denberg credits the experience with her eventual return to acting.
“This was a couple of years after I had gotten sober,” Denberg says. “So I’d been doing all of these different jobs, being a courier, being a dog walker, all this kind of stuff, so I hadn’t been on a set…But yeah, just being there and being in production, I just know what I’m doing. I love it and it’s so yummy to me, so that was this turning point.”
Crozer says he believes all three spots were online at one time–not on YouTube–in completed form.
“I wish I could get my hands on these just so I could put them out and everyone could take a look at them,” Crozer says. He welcomes internet “detectives” to see what they can find. The hosts believe the spots were titled “preggos,” “patent,” and “Semper Fi.”
Writer’s note: If these are online, they are buried deep.
The hosts suggested there are several other interesting game-related collaborations to talk about, but the segment ran over. Don’t you think they ought to come tell a few more of these stories on GameDev Breakdown?
Todd Mitchell is a US Midwest-based comedy writer and game developer with bylines at Weekly Humorist, Fanbyte, Slackjaw, End of the Bench Sports, and more. He’s the author of Inside Video Game Creation, the founder of CodeWritePlay, and host of the GameDev Breakdown podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mechatodzilla.