Mr. Jackson and Microsoft were in discussions over a Halo movie, but those talks have apparently stalled. However, the software giant and maker of the wildly popular franchise had enlisted Mr. Jackson to create an episodic online video series set in the Halo universe. The first two installments have been released; the third will come out the same day as "Halo 3" is released, Sept. 25, and will be available on the microsite for a new Discovery show, "Last One Standing."
"Last One Standing" has its debut Oct. 4; PHD, Discovery's media agency, which conceived and crafted the deal, said it saw a fit between "Last One Standing" and the video game. The exclusivity period for the video runs one week from its Sept. 25 debut.
"Last One Standing" targets men ages 18 to 34 and, according to the program description, focusing on "six American and British athletes who are dropped into ancient cultures to live alongside indigenous tribesmen and participate in their authentic rituals to see who will survive and triumph." The demographics of the show and Halo's young male devotees are "totally in sync," said Chris Schembri, senior VP-media planning and partnerships at Discovery Communications.
PHD worked with Microsoft and its video-game sales unit, Massive, to work out co-branded display ad units that will run on Microsoft sites such as MSN and Xbox.com as well as sites within its network, including Facebook. Microsoft will also promote the video on XBox Live.
And the agency is bullish on the promotion, saying it could reap as many as 100 million impressions.
"Once exclusivity expires, the video will still have our branding," said Craig Daitch, VP-director of interactive strategy at PHD. "When it hits video aggregation sites, there's nothing that keeps a social networking site from posting it on their super wall."
Less costly than traditional buys
Although PHD wouldn't comment on the cost of the campaign, the deal is expected to cost far less than the eight-figure packages other marketers struck to be part of the game. In another example of a marketer attaching itself to the Halo brand, Wal-Mart is paying TV network CW for branded spots in its new Sunday evening newsmagazine to promote the fact it will be selling the video game.
This is not Discovery's first foray into gaming. Earlier this year PHD coordinated a campaign for the program "Future Weapons" that offered fans of XBox's "Gears of War" access to addition levels of the game. The campaign was lauded for its ability to drive affinity among hard-to-reach young males.
"With 'Gears of War' we were giving gamers something that will enhance their game play," said Mr. Daitch. "In the case of 'Halo,' we're promoting the Halo lifestyle. It shows we recognize the fact that Halo is a culture in itself."
Added Mr. Schembri: "It really offers us an opportunity to get some credibility in that market with that target group. They're great viewers for us."