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Buying Insurance from Katamari Damacy
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 06, 2006   |   Episode 64 (Show Archive)  

   
These days it's not uncommon to see major companies using video games to hawk their wares. We've seen Tennis star Andy Roddick playing against Pong in an American Express commercial, the Hummer H2 driving around space in Asteroids and RalliSport Challenge 2 used to promote the Volvo S40. These companies have learned that teaming up with popular video games can be a fantastic way of keeping your name out there and seeming relevant in this video game obsessed world. But not every company likes to credit their video game influence; sometimes they take a good idea and run with it without ever mentioning where the idea came from. This seems to be the case with the newest commercial from Travellers Insurance.

While insurance commercials are often boring and stuffy affairs, this commercial from Travelers was clearly created to attract as much attention as

It's about time we have a chance to talk about Katamari Damacy again!
possible. It's big, it's loud and it's targeting a younger demographic. But there's something very familiar about the spot, something obvious that isn't being said. Take a look at the minute-long commercial above and see if you can guess which video game Travelers' has decided to rip off.

When it comes to this commercial, it seems pretty obvious that they are going after the cult-following surrounding Namco's quirky little title, Katamari Damacy. Both the game and the commercial feature a small ball (or "katamari") snowballing into a giant ball able to consume entire vehicles. By the end of the advertisement we see something so similar to Katamari Damacy that the only thing missing is the cool Japanese music and Prince pushing it.

If you slow down the commercial you will see a lot of the odds and ends that are common in the world of Katamari Damacy. You get smaller items (like trash cans, boxes and balls), medium

Apparently Travelers wasn't the first to attempt this Katamari Damacy-like stunt with real objects!
sized junk (such as motorcycles, humans and lumber), as well as larger vehicles and an entire wedding party. At if that wasn't enough, the katamari ... er, ball of junk even rolls itself through an entire city, just like a certain Namco game I fell in love with just two years ago. And when the ball finally hits a large building standing in its way, pieces that you collected fall off, just like in the video game. It's all here; it's a blatant carbon copy of what you get in all three Katamari Damacy games.

Clearly somebody at the company that came up with this ad campaign has played Namco's bizarre action game. But while I love the idea of using Katamari Damacy as an influence, part of

Unfortunately not everything associated with Katamari Damacy is as cool as the game!
me is disappointed that no credit is given. When other companies have used video games in their advertising they have made sure to give the game some sort of credit, but that is not the case with Travelers Insurance. Instead they opt to give credit to themselves and ignore that millions of gamers around the world are going to look at the commercial and view it as a rip-off.

Despite the fact that Katamari Damacy has become a huge success in its own right, part of me feels that it

Don't know who Gitaroo-Man is? I doubt this picture will help much!
could only benefit from a commercial like this. Travelers' is buying up ad space on channels that regularly appeal to the younger demographic, so a little credit can go a long way. The adventures of the Prince and his katamari will never hit the level of Grand Theft Auto or Halo, but that's all the more reason to give them some free advertising. At least put the original music back in the commercial, it's certainly a lot more uplifting than the song Travelers chose. Heck, it's not just more uplifting, it's the type of music that gets stuck in your head and will never go away ... which is exactly what advertisers are looking for, last time I checked.

Still, I don't blame the company for trying to act hip by going after a video game with a huge cult following. I just wish everybody could have been given credit so that it could benefit our industry, and not just the insurers. I look forward to Travelers' next commercial, where they rip-off Gitaroo-Man.
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