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WoW Archivist: WoW's craziest TV ads

A WoW ad from China
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Nefarian swallows a truck.

Two women duke it out in a supermarket.

A trio of singers shouts, "No means no!"

Mr. T introduces a new race and Chuck Norris roundhouse-kicks a kodo.

Those responsible for advertising World of Warcraft have hit on some crazy ideas.

This week, Blizzard debuted its first TV ads for Mists of Pandaria. As I'm writing this, I've just watched them air live on Monday Night Football. That's a big-time slot for a commercial here in the States and runs a cool $325,000 per nationally televised spot. The ads feature clips from the official trailer. If only the Bengals had put up as much of a fight as that panda.

But not all of WoW's commercials through the years have been quite so ... straightforward. Let's take a look!

Coke, fireballs, and fur bikinis

When WoW launched in China, the launch campaign featured a Coke crossover ad that is possibly the strangest Blizzard-based commercial of all time, and my personal favorite. The plot of the 2005 commercial hinges around a violent disagreement over skimpy clothing.

Three female performers argue with a male record executive about how much skin to show. During the meeting, the women are drinking Coke and watching the original WoW trailer on a laptop. Because that's what you do in boring business meetings.

The exec holds up a photo of a woman in short shorts and some kind of fur bikini top as an example of what he wants them to wear. When the women refuse, he morphs into an enraged orc. "No means no!" the woman shout in unison as they morph into . . . women wearing short shorts and tight tops. Clearly someone didn't think this through.

We now find ourselves in Azeroth, where the three women battle their orc-xec? Exorc? Take your pick. In what is actually quite an impressive animation, they defeat him using a mixture of fireballs, magic arrows, and sword slinging. As a reward, they receive a treasure chest full of -- what else -- Coke!

Back in the real world, the exec finds himself wearing the outfit he was pushing on his stars. Instant karma is achieved, thanks to the magical combination of soft drinks and MMO combat.


Nefarian is defeated by Japanese engineering

Coke wasn't Blizzard's only crossover ad. A 2007 commercial with Toyota advertised their Tacoma pickup truck. The ad features entirely in-game footage and slightly digitized voices, as if we're hearing the players through a Vent server. I assume this is meant to evoke the viral Leeroy Jenkins video.

We begin with three characters discussing what weapons they will bring to a boss fight. The third guy, shouting "Four wheels of fury!," picks a Toyota Tacoma. He drives the truck wildly around Azshara despite his buddy's protest that "There's no trucks in World of Warcraft." (After Kezan, that's actually debatable.)

Nefarian swallows the Tacoma whole and queues up a Deep Breath. All seems lost. Then the son of Deathwing takes ill, presumably from ingesting two tons of utility vehicle. The Tacoma bursts out of his stomach Alien-style, accompanied for some reason by a giant explosion, and he crumples to the ground.

The driver of the Tacoma proclaims, "Did you see me lay down the law? I am the Lawgiver!" That would indicate he's a paladin, but he can't be based on the staff he has equipped. Fix your lore, Toyota!


Mountain Dew incites a race war

The combination of Warcraft and soft drinks inevitably leads to racial conflict. A 2009 ad with Mountain Dew featured two women in line at a supermarket. They are both happily buying Mountain Dew. There's only one problem: one of them has chosen the blue Alliance flavor, while the other has chosen the red Horde flavor. The Horde supporter, unwilling to let pass an opportunity for bloodshed, pulls a sword out of her shopping cart. The other woman sees her reflected in a silver balloon and blocks the attack with a staff.

The pair morph into an orc and a night elf. Why do these commercials always lead to morphing, and why are the jerks in them always orcs? Anyway, a ferocious combat ensues right there in the aisle, which is fortunately devoid of other customers. Not so fortunately, the animation isn't as good as the Coke commercial, and the combatants look very fake against the real-world background. Many players hated this one.

"Choose Your Side," Blizzard tells us. The message here is if you see a guy wearing an Alliance logo on the street, you should immediately attack him from behind with the deadliest weapon you have available.


Blizzard casts Starsurge

Perhaps the best-known and most high-profile ads have been those featuring celebrities. The first ads, starring William Shatner and Mr. T, aired in 2007. The series went on to feature Verne Troyer and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Blizzard brought out new ads in 2008 starring Ozzy Osbourne and The Sopranos' Steve Van Zandt. Yet more in 2011 featured Chuck Norris and Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation. Regional celebrities like Spain's Willy Toledo and France's Alexander Astier have also had their own commercials.

These ads might have been more global than the Chinese Coke commercial, but they are almost as zany. We've got Mr. T claiming he hacked the game to introduce the "mohawk" race. Shatner says, "I'm a shaman," and calls us "dog." Astier gets frozen by Sindragosa and holds his breath. JCVD threatens to sheep us. Ozzy swears at the director and then yells for his wife to save him from the Lich King. Chuck Norris pummels goblins, a kodo, and a hapless whale shark. An unaired version of Aubrey's ad contains a groan-inducing pun that was deemed too racy for TV.

Love them or hate them, you can tell that a lot of love and a lot of fun went into making all of these ads. I can't wait to see what Blizzard does next. May I humbly suggest Clint Eastwood yelling at Garrosh's empty throne?

After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.

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