#2. Sega, Fine Purveyors of Man-on-Seafood Sex
After unleashing Sonic the Hedgehog like a plague of locusts across every system under the sun, the marketing geniuses at Sega made a play for the lucrative demographic of people who enjoy pounding cloaca.
Maybe we should explain. In 2000, Sega released the quirky Dreamcast pet simulator Seaman in North America. The game itself was a niche product -- it starred an ornery manphibian who interacted with the player through a microphone. The titular Seaman would pass his time slinging insults at you, but you could toss the barbs right back. Look, if you want the Next Big Thing, you have to experiment. Who was to say that this surly fish/human hybrid wasn't going to be the next Mario?
The problem, of course, is trying to sell such a bizarre and awful-sounding game to audiences. You can sort of picture the cast of Mad Men sitting around a conference room, batting around ideas. "So it's called Seaman, can we do some kind of semen pun? No? OK, well, the title character is some kind of man-fish creature that clearly is the product of a human mating with a fish ... is there some way we can make a subtle play on that?"
Then everybody kind of thinks and taps their pencils for a minute before Don Draper says, "I've got it. Picture a man, on a soiled mattress, banging a giant beached carp. We just see his feet and her fin, clearly in the moment after the man has ejaculated into the fish."
"Someone write this down: Stop having meetings while smoking pot laced with Viagra and LSD."
Silent, awed looks from around the room. A single tear runs down the cheek of a Sega executive. Slowly, he begins clapping.
#1. Sega Advertises Sonic the Hedgehog With Big Ol' Hairy Balls
The above shouldn't imply that Sega was somehow new to the "gamers can't resist dick references" theory of game promotion. Back in the 1990s, for instance, Sega was clearly eager to portray their new portable gaming device as a cool gadget for adults. And if that meant associating their product with masturbation and drunken hooliganism, so be it! And so we wound up with the following ads, which ran in British adult humor magazines.
First we have a deranged naked man rubbing his genitals on a Game Gear:
"We're talking about masturbation."
Another ad brags that Sega products will leave players "shooting all over the place":
"Did we mention we're talking about jacking off? Because we totally are. Please jack off with our products."
A third spot openly acknowledges players' proclivities for binge drinking and bladder infections:
"After you're finished drunkenly pissing in the snow, you should fuck it. Sega."
And finally, an ad compares Sega's flagship character to a crudely drawn cartoon scrotum. That's basically like Nintendo openly analogizing Mario's mustache to the mons pubis of a 1970s porn star.
"Sonic the Hedgehog: As Good as a Pair of Hairy Nuts Hanging Out of a Speedo at the Beach."
Fletcher Wortmann is the author of Triggered: A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. You can read more from his strange and frightening brain at Psychology Today and his website.
For more boneheaded PR moves, check out 5 Corporate Promotions That Ended in (Predictable) Disaster. Or learn about 5 Reasons It's Still Not Cool to Admit You're a Gamer.