“The Godfather” has undoubtedly served as a rite of passage for filmgoers and placed itself on a pedestal as arguably the greatest film of all time.
Now, thirty-five years after they first graced the big screen, Don Corleone and his crime family are wielding their Mafioso vengeance to a whole new generation of pop culture devotees: the gamers. Electronic Arts, which currently publishes 5 of the top 10 selling games on the market, has just released The Godfather: The Game. In it, players are given countless choices for solving family problems with brutal violence, skillful diplomacy, or a cunning mixture of both through mob hits, bank heists, drive-bys and extortion—the goal being to climb your way up the Corleone totem and earn your place as Don in 20th century New York City.
While promotional TV ads have sprouted showing clips from the game, many featuring amazingly life-like renderings of Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone, a more notable ad campaign took place on city streets and online. To commemorate the March 21st release of The Godfather: The Game, thousands of oranges were delivered during that day’s early morning hours to the streets within the bustling city centers of New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Why oranges? After making “The Godfather” film, it was revealed by Francis Ford Coppola that the orange is a symbol of death and rebirth.
But rather than just provide citizens with a healthy dose of vitamin C, each of these citric “symbols” was slapped with a sticker with the printed URL, Godfather321.com. “We wanted to make it intriguing and not give too much away,” explains Chris Gatewood, creative director at Freestyle Interactive, the West coast agency that handled the site. “But we had to kind of indicate, make a nod towards the Godfather franchise. So that’s why we chose to put the URL with the Godfather name on it. We didn’t want to tell people at that point that it was for a game, we wanted that to be expressed when they reached the website.”
The Flash-heavy portal itself not only schools people on the ins and outs of the game, but visitors can also scroll and see streaming video of the orange placement on the various street locales, footage from the videogame itself, as well as click through to EA’s official site for the release. According to Gatewood, that added pinch of content was exactly what Freestyle was striving for. “I think definitely the orange piece was made to create more of a draw to outside of just the hardcore,” he says. “It’s also meant as somewhat of a tease to get you to click in and find out more on the big site, the official EA site. We did that in order to try to create some content that was unique for people like the gamers who would go to the site. They would be like, ‘Oh, I’ve seen the videos, but this orange thing is pretty interesting’ and [then they’d] look at some of the videos that were shot—like the pre-roll footage of the actual event.”
Call it guerilla, call it viral, but this one-day, orange-dropping marketing blitz — mostly handled by Freestyle’s word-of-mouth sister agency Ammo — was above all, unique. “We thought, wouldn’t it be great to reach this audience if they came out of the subway one morning and they just saw all these oranges all over the place,” Gatewood recalls. “We thought it would be a high impact out-of-home experience to see these oranges plastered throughout our cityscape.”
While the oranges are probably eaten, withering or rotting at the sanitation depositories at this point, Gatewood says Godfather321.com will endure for the foreseeable future. The site will be live probably well into the life of the game,” he says. “I don’t think there’s necessarily a date to pull it down.”
Considering how long the film itself has remained in public consciousness, chances are we’ll see Vito and crew — as well as those oranges — online for quite a while.
For a clever campaign you can’t refuse, check out Godfather321.com.