Life is short – The history of the forbidden Xbox advertising engraved in the memories

What is life if not a form of real role-playing game in which you play your own character? While the first Xbox has barely been released in Britain, an advertising spot asks, in essence, this metaphysical question. Microsoft hits hard, very hard, to the point that this video advertisement was quite simply banned … But not forgotten. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look behind the scenes!

Life is short, play more

When the first Xbox finally came out in Europe, in February 2002, four months after its availability on the North American market, a British advertisement accompanied the arrival of this outsider across the Atlantic, still a novice in the home video game. Microsoft was not an unknown name, far from it, when the Xbox was announced. However, the brand was brand new and had to make an impression from the outset to win against Nintendo or Sony, in particular on the European market to which this campaign was addressed.

The advertisement commonly known as “Life is Short” (officially, “Champagne”) fits perfectly into these criteria of memorability. In short: it offers, in about fifty seconds, to witness the birth of a little boy who crosses his life at full speed in the air until he ends his journey in a coffin. The slogan “life is short, play more” then appears: “life is short, play more”. The message is powerful, the video mesmerizes. And shocking at the same time.

So shocking !

Despite a rough birth, filmed in a delivery room, the expulsion of a newborn in the air, the visible nudity and the cries of this child become old, it is the representation of death that shocks viewers, sometimes recently bereaved. The man we see on the screen falls violently into a tomb, after breaking a stele that turns out to be his. Complaints reached theIncorporated Television Company (more or less the equivalent of our CSA) which then asked Microsoft to remove this advertising spot from British screens.

In an interview with our colleagues from Games Industry, Harvey Eagle, director of the team behind the advertising, reviewed the genesis of this unprecedented project and in particular the contribution of his French collaborators, Fred and Farid, to whom we owe the concept of the baby. catapulted, as seen in the video:

I remember there was no rulebook, none of us had launched a console before, and it was a very exciting time to be part of this little launch team. I remember we set out to create content that would be shared virally and we thought was a really cool way to introduce people to the Xbox brand. The advertising agency we were working with at the time was BBH [Bartle Bogle Hegarty], and within BBH, we were assigned a young creative team in the making including two guys called Fred and Farid who were French. It was a very talented and very prolific creative team.

Since then, the Fred & Farid agency has made a name for itself and the two creators have had big names in the tertiary industry as clients, in France as in the rest of the world. Their work, recognized, was probably the strong point of this absurd project which sought to captivate and impose the Xbox brand through a metaphor for life. The Xbox was not looking to integrate your living room and then be tidied up. She was an integral part of your life! At least, this is essentially the simple idea that Fred & Farid wish to share and which appealed to Harvey Eagle:

I always think the best ideas are ones that are simple enough to be described in a few sentences. They basically described to me that, “There’s a baby that catapults itself out of the hospital window at birth, it ages from cradle to grave flying through the air, then it crashes into the grave like an old man. Then words emerge that say: “Life is short, play more”. “

The beginning of fame

Harvey Eagle had full backing from Microsoft after coming to Redmond in person to present the project. Among his recollections, he recalls sending the compressed video by email and that it was reportedly shared over a million times. Put in a context where video sharing was impossible, YouTube having been created in 2005, this popularity was therefore consequent and convinced Microsoft to make the television spot. The rest, we know it: after only a few weeks of broadcasting, advertising had to leave the small screen and fall back on the web and cinemas to reach posterity.

Despite the controversy and the cessation of broadcasting, the “Champagne” spot won the hearts of players who remember it, but also the recognition of the marketing world since it has been awarded several times. Among the awards, a Golden Lion at the prestigious Cannes International Advertising Festival. Harvey Eagle keeps fond memories of this project and shows his pride in having, in his own way, contributed to the success of the nascent brand:

When you’re new, you need to be clear about what you stand for as a brand. And I think that particular idea really summed up everything we were trying to represent as a new brand in the video game industry.

An image, at the same time simple and avant-garde, which represents rather well the philosophy of Microsoft since its arrival in the world of the domestic video game. Through this bold advertising, the Xbox brand has made an impression.

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