Pontiac Gives Gamers Chance to Score Early on 'Halo 3'

Sponsors Giveaway of Anticpated Video Game, and Helps Host Early Play Previews

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Pontiac is tapping into the hoopla for Microsoft's much-anticipated "Halo 3," letting people play and own the latest edition of the wildly popular Xbox 360 video game before it goes on sale Sept. 25.
Pontiac, like other marketers courting the young male demo, is helping hype the arrival of the much-anticipated 'Halo 3.'
Pontiac, like other marketers courting the young male demo, is helping hype the arrival of the much-anticipated 'Halo 3.'

The General Motors Corp. brand is touting a "First to Own" promotion, offering gamers the chance to be among 1,000 winners to get a Halo 3 before its release. Fans must visit www.pontiac.com/halo3 and be successful at a unscrambling trivia game before 11:59 p.m. Sept. 17.

Multimillion-dollar support
When Microsoft started to plot the alliance with Pontiac about a year ago, the discussion centered on "enabling experiences" for the fans, said Microsoft's Chris DiCesare, director-marketing and global partnerships. Pontiac is backing "Halo 3" with a multimillion-dollar campaign, he said, but declined to be more specific. (In addition to Pontiac, Pepsi's Mountain Dew, Burger King and Comcast, among others have built marketing programs around the "Halo 3" launch, as each marketer tries to catch the attention of the young male demographic.)

Mr. DiCesare said that during the launch of "Halo 2," he spent half the meetings with marketing partners explaining the gaming business. But, he said, "brands took notice" after Microsoft rung up $125 million in first-day sales of the second edition. Mr. DiCesare said "Halo 3's" opening-day sales could top that of this summer's "Spider-Man 3," which took in a record $151 million at the box-office its opening weekend.

Victor Lee, the VP overseeing channel activation program for Pontiac at its online shop, Digitas, Boston, said the auto brand also offered fans the chance to be among the "First to Play" "Halo 3" before its release date. Earlier this week, the brand hosted two events at Imax theaters, one in San Francisco on Sept. 11 and one in Manhattan on Sept. 13. At each venue, 2,500 of those who correctly solved a puzzle at the Pontiac-Halo website were invited, along with a friend, to play the game on big plasma TVs or the massive Imax screen during a five-hour event.

Meeting the fans
Mr. DiCesare, who attended the San Francisco event at the Metreon, said fans started lining up at 10:30 in the morning, more than 10 hours before the doors opened. One fan he met, who was fifth in line, lived in Atlanta and would have had a shorter and cheaper trip had he signed up for the New York event.

Pontiac, which declined comment, had a "Halo 3" G5-themed car on display outside the theater.

The car brand started advertising the site via a dedicated 30-second spot earlier this month on broadcasts of two of its ongoing TV partners, NCAA football and ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Leo Burnett Detroit, Troy, Mich., handled the ads.

"When you have a consumer so fanatical about this game and for us to help them, we found our best place to be," said Mr. Lee.
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