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Xbox 360's Busting Balloon: Ads Beneath the Obvious
posted by: Aaron Stanton
date posted: 11:37 PM Thu Dec 15th, 2005
last revision: 03:08 PM Fri Dec 16th, 2005

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Click to read.The sinister side of water balloons:

The release of the Xbox 360 came hand-in-hand with a television advertising campaign. Microsoft released a number of commercials for the Xbox 360, and none of them seem to have much to do with video games. One has people jump roping. One has children throwing water balloons at each other in an urban environment. Another, supposedly \"banned\" commercial has people in a subway shooting at each other with imaginary finger guns. All of them zoom out at the end to reveal the Xbox 360 logo and the slogan, \"Jump in.\"

What you might not realize if you haven\'t had a chance to see the TV spot compared to the longer online spots is that these commercials are not always the same between the different mediums.

Some have extra elements, and they cast the water balloon commercial in a much darker light.

On the version often seen on TV, the image appears to be an urban city environment. Children and adults are having a water balloon fight. In the background, the audio track is singing about bears going for a picnic.

In general, it\'s a happy scene.

Take a look at the videos:

The balloons for guns program:

For all given purposes, it\'s the same commercial, except for one key difference. About half way through the 90-second version, the audio changes. You begin to hear gunfire. Automatic machine guns can be heard super-imposed over the video of children throwing water balloons back and forth. The sound of bullets ricocheting off of walls can be heard. The twelve year olds take cover. At first, the audio sounds so much like the sound of water balloons exploding that it\'s hard to distinguish, but after a moment there\'s no doubt - mainly because of the rapid firing of the machine guns - that this is a depiction of a very depressing scene.

It\'s most evident during a scene that\'s in both versions. There\'s a moment (51s into the 90s spot, and 37s into the 60s spot) in each commercial when the perspective switches to the inside of a vehicle. Listen to a portion of the audio from the 90 second spot separated from the video.

The sounds of gunfire - over and beyond the sound of the balloons exploding - are clearly evident.

With the sound of gunfire, the streets stop being the streets of a peaceful urban city. Suddenly we\'re seeing what we see on TV in the news; children with guns in foreign combat zones, urban combat in conflict rich countries. Iraq. Afghanistan.

We see Ghost Recon 3.

So what does that mean? That\'s really up for you to decide. As one forum user points out, this commercial shows people having fun without seriously hurting anyone. Does the addition of realistic gunfire make that any less true? No, it\'s still a rendition of people interacting, having fun, and not seriously hurting each other. But the additional audio certainly adds a layer of interpretation to the previously harmless activity. And why did Microsoft leave it out of the 60 second spot, but include the audio in the 90 second spot?

It\'s as if the 90-seconds convey the true vision of the commercial, and they\'ve crippled the meaning of the 60-second spot to make it more watchable on TV. Less disturbing, perhaps.

From a company that\'s willing to release \"banned\" commercials onto the internet in a form of viral marketing, the inclusion of the additional sound effects should be marketing gold.

If anything, it\'s interesting from an academic standpoint.

It\'s worth being mentioned, at the very least. We can\'t help wondering how many people have noticed it. Interpretation is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

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