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Xbox swaps traditional ad-speak for a series of self-mocking memes and surreal video clips. With people tired of being sold to, Xbox is turning to memes to mimic the way its users communicate, in order to make its official tone of voice come across as more genuine. We explore the insights behind the ad, and understand why memes and satire sell better than earnest sales pitches.

The ad makes a point of distancing itself from typical marketing comms, specifically by mocking them. It opens up with a familiar, disingenuous voice reminiscent of infomercials, accusing the viewer of living an insufficient life: "Do you often find yourself stressed and tired? Does your life seem like a series of mediocre stock videos? Do you often catch yourself adrift? Staring vacantly into the abyss?" At that, the ad cuts to a sequence of said mediocre stock videos, which give way to a series of increasingly bizarre and surreal video clips that resemble memes that mock the Xbox product itself. "It’s a meme within a meme within a meme," says Geordie Larratt-Smith, account director Xbox’s brand’s agency, Ayzenberg Group. "It’s the kind of content we engage with on the internet [and] the epitome of a tone-setter for everything to come in these communities."

Why had Xbox swapped out traditional ad-speak for meme-ified comms?
Ace | YouTube (2018) ©

As people wade through the din of constant advertising communications, they’re looking for brands that can speak to them in a more human way. It’s why companies are turning to Whatsapp and direct messaging platforms to handle customer service via a more familiar medium, they’re encouraging interaction through GIFs, while others are even trying their hand at trolling tactics, to mimic various forms of online communication. With this in mind, Xbox’s ad aims to have its message adopt the tone of the meme world, rather than that of the ad world. As Devin Moore, Microsoft’s global marketing manager, notes: "We’re putting a stake in the ground and saying we’re here to communicate with our fans in a way they recognise."

Mira Kopolovic is a behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. She has a MA which focused on visual culture and artist-brand collaborations, and spends her spare time poring over dystopian literature.


13 Aug 18
2 min read

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