Crackers the Chimp, Hedwig the Polar Bear and Bean the Sloth have showed up at key polling places in Iowa, South Carolina and California on election days.
The animal melee is a marketing gambit to draw media attention to the forthcoming "Hail to the Chimp" video game. Developed by Halo co-architect and former Bungie Studio CEO Alex Seropian, the humorous game lampoons political elections and the media circus around them. Players choose one of 10 candidates to participate in ballot-box stuffing, paying off fat cats and collecting clams (votes) by allying with each other and/or knocking each other senseless in a battle to be president of the newly formed Animal Republic. (The monarch King Lion was dethroned in disgrace after being caught eating at a vegetarian restaurant.)
Publisher Gamecock Media's CEO Mike Wilson, who has himself donned furry suits in both Iowa and South Carolina, said a big part of the game's appeal was its election theme. That a hotly contested real-world race provided an opportunity for "a couple of million of bucks in free marketing" didn't hurt.
Along with the in-animal appearances, the viral-media play includes a mock CNN animal-news network dubbed GRR News, and a Huffington Post blog from one of the "Chimp" game developers. (An earlier idea to have GRR News reporter Woodchuck Chumley blog collapsed when the animal-haters over at HuffPo wouldn't allow a so-called real person to blog on its site.) Gamecock also is working with MTV's Rock the Vote, creating a spoof called "Cock the Vote."
The game itself has some two-and-a-half-hours of satirical GRR News reports, plus faux political and product ads. The team hired professional comedy writers from the Onion and Daily Show to pen the gags.
Closer to game launch in May, the company will place TV ads for "Hail to the Chimp" on "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."
"We're specifically going after people who follow politics and find it funny," Mr. Wilson said. "Only ours is funnier."
Intentionally funnier, anyway.