Call of Duty: Vanguard brings war photographers into the game

First. major push from Activision's new CMO Fernando Machado comes from Gut and highlights the realism of the franchise's latest title

Published On
Oct 21, 2021

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The folks at Activision believe the graphics in the new Call of Duty: Vanguard are so realistic, they brought in real-life war photographers to memorialize them.

That's the premise behind the popular franchise's first major campaign to be created under Fernando Machado, the award-winning marketer who became Activision's chief marketing officer in April following his celebrated run as CMO of Restaurant Brands International, during which he led attention-getting and groundbreaking marketing efforts for Burger King, Popeyes and more. 

The new Call of Duty campaign, like Machado's previous efforts, takes an unconventional approach to promote the product. The latest installment of the franchise is set to drop on Nov. 5. To illustrate how the new game immerses players intimately into the battles of World War II, the campaign invited photojournalists Alex Potter and Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini into the Call of Duty gaming engine to capture "photographs" of the game's warzones with special "virtual" cameras. Their shoot experience was made into a trailer promoting the title.

“We could have had a tech chat about the graphics, but why not show that in a wider and more creative way?” said Machado in an interview. “We wanted to do this in a way that didn’t come across as a lecture."

When news broke that Machado would be joining the video game giant, it remained to be seen whether he'd bring into the marketing fold his go-to agency partners such as David, Gut and We Believers. This new campaign answers that question—it was created out of Gut, the shop co-founded by award-winning creative Anselmo Ramos, who has created notable campaigns with Machado for Popeyes, Tim Hortons, Dove and more. 

The new campaign also comes at a time when Activision Blizzard is dealing with the fallout of a lawsuit filed in July by the state of California alleging the video game publisher fosters a “frat boy” culture. The president of Blizzard stepped down as did other executives. Most recently, more than 20 employees have “exited” and at least 20 others have received disciplinary action as part of an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct.

The Call of Duty campaign may help to remind gamers of the company's more honorable efforts, however, with its pro-bono component. Limited-edition prints of Potter and Piccolomini's "photographs" will be available for purchase through Bleeker Trading N.Y. in-person and online starting at 3 p.m. EST today. There will be another drop of limited prints on Oct. 25 that will be signed by the photojournalists.

The prints will retail for $515 apiece, and all proceeds from the sales will be donated to the Call of Duty Endowment, Activision Blizzard's nonprofit that helps find employment for U.S. veterans. The price of each print is exactly how much it costs the Endowment to secure employment for a vet. Since its founding in 2009, the organization has funded the placement of more than 90,000 vets in high-quality jobs, and aims to place 100,000 more by 2024.

The new installment of the game and its marketing efforts also attempt to diversify the game's universe, Machado said. "It's the first time we have a Black main character on key art, and we also have a female sniper character," he said.