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  • Writer's pictureJames Cullen

Breaking the Fourth Wall of Meta Content Marketing: A Case Study of GAME

Once upon a time, long, long ago, adverts were a surefire barometer of the time it took to boil the kettle and make a cup of tea. Nowadays, advertisements last long enough to hand boil the water with a candle. The vast array of advert saturation can often lead to the message being lost in the white noise. Once you've seen one or two talking animals peddling home insurance, you've seen them all. But how then can adverts stand out and relay the message to justify the ad spend, and also hook their target audience to create a meaningful interaction that benefits the brand?

Well, like GAME have done, they could just break the fourth wall with some meta content marketing. The fourth wall - the last form of defense from the flickering images on the screen - exists to supplement the spectator effect that moving image purports. But, as any good pantomime performance knows, audience participation may be the only thing you end up remembering. GAME's adverts utilize James Buckley, or Jay from The Inbetweeners, playing a (presumably) fictionalized version of himself.

Game content marketing James Buckley breaking the fourth wall

"Game paid me to do an advert..."

The ads are self-referential, nodding to the fact that James is James, an actor, and he is being paid by GAME to advertise their latest deals and discounts. In a culture of celebrity endorsement being a currency of its own, this is a very refreshing move. Yes, we know he gets paid to be in them, but it makes us feel on the same level as GAME by them acknowledging that we know this. Much like a trenchcoat-wearing watch salesman tells his customers that they're the savviest ones he's met and he wouldn't dare sell them any untoward timepieces. The esoteric 'in the know' nod and wink immediately endears us to the seller. Yes, I am savvier than the other customers, I'll take a Rolek please.

By outlining that it is an advert, the need for unnecessary attention-grabbing gimmicks is redundant. The ad breaking the fourth wall is gimmick enough, and boy does this gimmick work. The meta content marketing approach addresses the zeitgeist of savvy consumerism. Sales figures aside, GAME can hold their head high in being memorable and treating their consumers with a kind of respect. It's like they're saying, "you can buy that game from anywhere, but we have a bond, so buy it from us".

The GAME ads invariably do contain a chunk of sales patter about the latest console, the deal on Pokemon, or the next Call of Duty pre-order, but because we're in the know and James Buckley is nodding at us on his level, we allow it, and we remember next time we go to GAME that we have a special secret relationship. Why buy a PS5 from a generic seller when Jay from The Inbetweeners is challenging you to complete FIFA before he does (which is ridiculous, because obviously he's already completed it).

Game content marketing James Buckley breaking the fourth wall

What do you think? Is breaking the fourth wall inspired and clever or lazy and overdone? Have you even noticed the GAME advert? Are we just waiting for Neil to get endorsing Jacamo and then we've got a hat trick of Inbetweeners as the face of brands?

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