Xbox invites gamers to make their own ads as part of new Halo 5: Guardians campaign

To emphasise the multiplayer aspect of the new Halo 5 game, Xbox has invited gamers to create ads to recruit for their squads via a dedicated website, and is using some of the ads made as official posters. We talked to ad agency McCann London about the campaign and why fan participation is such a popular approach in gaming ads…

The Halo 5: Guardians ad is the latest in a series of campaigns for games that invite players to help mould the ads, and presumably get a little bit of fame in the gaming community along the way. A website, found at, invites Halo 5 players to write job ads to search for gamers with specific skills to join their squad, with certain ads then chosen to appear on billboards and in press ads to promote the game.

“Leading up to the launch of Halo 5: Guardians, Xbox ran a campaign called #HuntTheTruth, which revolved around the storyline of the single-player mode in the game,” explains Laurence Thomson, CCO and President at McCann London. “But since Xbox had media booked for after the launch too – when fans would have already completed the story – we realised that we needed to focus on something else. Instead of a traditional advertising campaign, we decided to create something useful – a utility that would benefit the Halo multiplayer community. With Squadvertiser, we’ve created a tool that can help gamers succeed in what is the most competitive multiplayer in the history of the Halo franchise.”

Recruitment ads used in billboard and press ads
Recruitment ads used in billboard and press ads

The ads, as can be seen in the image of the jobs board from the site below, all essentially have a similar look, though gamers are encouraged to personalise them in the copy. “It’s all about being able to get across your squad’s individual needs,” continues Thomson. “You can add a few different criteria, like the location and rank of the player you’re looking for. You get to pick from a range of different visuals (which are always being updated), based on what player type you’re after. And in terms of copy, you’re completely free to write your own text. Aesthetically, the ads echo the feeling of old recruitment and propaganda posters, yet with a distinctly futuristic, sci-fi bent which instantly feels at home in the Halo universe.”

Jobs board on the website, and ad as featured in the Daily Star
Jobs board on the website, and ad as featured in the Daily Star

The gaming world is especially at home with inviting fans to help with its ads, and also regularly runs posters with fan reviews rather than official reviews to promote specific games. Thomson puts this approach down to the unusually high levels of engagement that gamers have with the ads.

“The gaming community is a really engaged audience, which opens it up to a more ‘dialogue-based’ campaign,” he says. “For instance, we’ve seen examples of the input of fans having an influence on things like gameplay development and games’ storylines. As we were creating a campaign for Halo fans, we wanted to make sure that what we made was not just entertaining. It had to be useful and meaningful to them.

“We understood that the reach of Xbox’s media plan is massive (and expensive), and realised that Halo players would need it more than Xbox would. So rather than bombarding fans with the same Halo 5 launch ad they’d seen a thousand times before, we allowed our media space to become a channel for fans’ own needs – a way of helping them play the multiplayer harder, better and smarter.”

Agency: McCann London
CCOs: Robert Doubal, Laurence Thomson
Creative directors: Jamie Mietz, Sanjiv Mistry
Creatives: Jacob Bjordal, Jim Nilsson
Website design: MRM (M:united)

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