If you have yet to read today’s New York Times — say you’ve been too busy trying to avoid a horrible hurricane-related death — you’ve likely yet to see the results of the latest ad push for EA’s upcoming Need For Speed: Most Wanted. The company’s PR folk took out a full-page spread to promote the game (which you can find in full below), but instead of simply detailing the racer’s features or offering a list of reasons why people should drop $60 on this title, EA opted to take a more controversial, if topical route.
“When America speeds, America wins,” reads the oversized font at the top of the ad. “Americans have the need for speed. Raise the speed limit to 130 mph,” it continues, before offering a handful of tongue-in-cheek infographics supporting the non-existent Proposition 130. These infographics seem perfectly apropos for a legitimate political advertisement, but the “facts” presented therein aren’t exactly reliable. According to the ad, if we were to more than double our national speed limit, we’d collectively save $29.1 billion every year that would otherwise be spent on speeding tickets. Further, the ad claims that the faux Proposition could create 435,000 new jobs for those able to convert speed bumps into ramps.
As far as Need For Speed ads go, we like this one. To us it’s subtle yet reinforces the idea that Need For Speed: Most Wanted will feature fast cars doing cool things and occasionally getting massive air. That’s exactly what we want from the racer, and so in our minds this ad is a success.
However, we aren’t the only people who will see this ad. Given the number of similarly pushy ads being foisted on the public during the ongoing election season, is it really such a stretch to imagine that someone might mistake this spot for an actual call to raise the national speed limit? Other than the unspectacular, grey EA logo at the very bottom of the spot, that small “Advertisement” disclaimer at the top and the clever bit about Americans having a “need for speed,” there’s really nothing here to indicate that this political advertisement is actually the result of a video game’s promotional efforts. We get that, and you probably get that, but what of people who don’t play games or follow EA’s every move? Call us cynical, but we wouldn’t put it past our fellow citizens to throw an angry tantrum about this idea.
In that light we don’t know whether to cheer EA’s bravery or roll our eyes at a company incapable of learning from its mistakes. You might recall that EA has something of a history of upsetting people with their attempts at creating bold PR pushes for its games. When it published Dante’s Inferno in 2010 the company opted to raise awareness of the epic poem cum God Of War clone by sending $200 checks to gaming journalists. This was supposed to make a point about greed, one of the Seven Deadly Sins and a key element in the Dante’s Inferno storyline, but instead it simply engendered fears among gamers that EA had been buying good review scores for the title. While that debacle was relatively localized to members of the online gaming culture, a political ad appearing in the country’s most famous newspaper has a far, far larger reach.
Then again, if this thing does cause a furor and people legitimately slam EA for its attempts to raise the speed limit, that should prove rather entertaining. We wouldn’t want to be EA’s PR team in that situation, but we’ll certainly nuke a bag of popcorn and watch the carnage unfold.