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The Third Place
Posted on Wednesday, December 5 2007 @ 21:03:28 PST

Historically, Nintendo has taken the direct route with ads: show people engaged in and enjoying playing Nintendo games. Sometimes this works well. Other times....

Microsoft's recent entry has been marked with an attempt to shake things up a bit and feature ads of people doing fun things in potentially gaming-centric  (or slogan-centric ("Jump in!")) situations.

The undisputed king of esoteric advertising, however, is Sony.

Take this early "Mental Wealth" commercial by Chris Cunningham. It doesn't show a game, it doesn't show a Playstation, but the monologue is loosely tied into the slogan "Do not underestimate the power of Playstation". For Sony, it's pretty coherent. Not like this next one.

The start of David Lynch's Playstation ad campaign marked the widespread use of the "Third Place" slogan, markedly more abstract than "Do not underestimate..." and definitely less accessible than "Jump In". These ads appeal to few people outside of university students and people who are seriously into cardigans. I love them, but...the duck? The thumbs up? Just when you thought you hit the pinnacle of obtuseness, they throw a curveball, however:

Now, "Wolfman" is probably one of the greatest commercials used to sell video games, but it is loud, angry and far from accessible. How many people let their TV scream at them for the duration of the ad to find out that you can "Be Whoever Whatever Whenever...In the Third Place", if only you buy a PS2? In pleasant company, it wouldn't be unheard of for someone to utter an indiscreet "what the fu..." after seeing that.
But what is the Third Place they keep talking about? Some place other than space and time? Something with elves? Lo, they have an answer:

So the Third Place is like an alternate dimension for puzzle pieces. I'll bet all those socks you lose in the drier are there too, chummin' it up with the jigsaw bits. And wait, so playing the PS2 is like looking into an abstract dimension formed by chunks of random images that wouldn't otherwise fit? I suppose in some cases...
On to the Playstation 3:

I have to say, I ate this one up. The ethereal music, the anticipation of launch day...and it makes sense! (sort of...) Unfortunately I saw this first as a preview while watching Borat, so the audience was slightly less than fully understanding the subtlety. And that's my point: I love these ads. All of them are fantastic, but I'm not the one they need to sell a Playstation to. I'll buy one because I know all about the thing and want to play their games. Do these ads appeal to the everyman?
The less said about the "This Is Living" campaign the better.

Again, well executed and clever,'s a little ginger beer, if you get my meaning. How many footballers and Halo fans are going to latch on to your product when you advertise it with la Cirque du Soleil?It all culminates in Sony's grand opus, the defining ad for the This Is Living campaign:

What is there to say about something like that?
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