Christoph Waltz and James Corden Glorify Gamer Stories for 'Clash of Clans'

Barton F. Graf's Campaign Turns Game Achievements Into Epic Tales

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Video games and celebrities can make for a killer combination -- that's what we learned when Supercell slipped Liam Neeson into its Super Bowl spot this year, to powerful, hilarious effect.

The advertiser and its agency Barton F. Graf are hoping to capture audiences' hearts again with a new campaign that enlists Christoph Waltz, a star of "Spectre" and "Django Unchained," and James Corden, host of "The Late Late Show with James Corden" on CBS, to illustrate real-life "Clash of Clan" gamer stories.

A cinema ad breaking today and running in select global markets stars Mr. Waltz as a papa telling a bedtime story to his son, played by Mr. Corden. He recites the harrowing tale of a Lava Pup, one of the characters from the game, tackling seemingly insurmountable obstacles

Turns out the story really happened -- pulled from the annals of "Clash of Clans" gamers' real-life accomplishments.

"True Tales of Clash Achievery" is the game's first fully integrated campaign, which will roll out with more films, social media and digital ads, in large-scale outdoor and high-impact placements. A website is planned to go live soon as part of the campaign. There, gamers will be able to submit their own success stories and view other tales in the campaign. All the ads will continue to highlight the feats of gamers themselves, telling their true stories on a grand scale.

The effort represents a new turn for the client's advertising, which has featured blockbuster animated tales based on elements of the actual game. This time, focusing on the players was at the heart of the client brief and led to plentiful fodder for content.

According to Barton Chief Creative Officer Gerry Graf, there were already massive stories happening within the game itself. "Clash has such a massive community, and the players are uploading videos and screenshots of epic wins, losses and general creativity everyday. So, the 'stories' are being created everyday -- we are just telling these real stories in a larger-than-life way."

As for the casting, Mr. Graf said of Mr. Waltz, "We needed a great storyteller -- someone [who] when they speak, you lean in and want to listen." In the case of Mr. Corden, "When filming a story that's being told, a classic tactic is to have a character that represents the audience," said Mr. Graf. "He has to act like he is hearing the story for the first time. We needed a great actor with a childlike sense of wonder for that role."

To direct, the agency tapped Anonymous Content's Tim Godsall for the live action and Psyop's Fletcher Moules, long-time animation director on the agency's Supercell work. Barton F. Graf Executive Creative Director Scott Vitrone said that Mr. Godsall brought a feature film sensibility to the job and "could walk the line between giving the film gravitas and being playful," while in the case of Mr. Moules, "no one else knows the animated world of Clash like he does." Both directors were able to "tell a big sweeping story in a short amount of time."

Real-life stories are key to the campaign, and the ones featured "we already knew," said Mr. Graf. "Our team spends a ton of time deep in the game and way too much time in community forums, YouTube channels and Reddit," so the tales were all there for the taking.

As for the story in the launch spot, that was "right out of the Joseph Campbell playbook," said Mr. Vitrone. "Certain defeat, the hero's father and brothers dying in battle, the underdog vs. the evil king, time running out, it's got everything."

The client, both on the marketing and gaming side, also played a key role in the campaign's creation. At Supercell, "they are all very creative people," said Mr. Graf. "They know the community better than anyone and helped us makes sure we were authentic. They also know an awesome battle when they see one."

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