Don Draper not included

Now that the highly popular series Mad Men has shown us how fun (and booze-filled) working at an ad agency can be, it’s surprising we haven’t seen an influx of games based on the concept. With Campaign: The Game, that’s a gap Insolita Studios and creative producer Thomas Egas is looking to fill. There isn’t any sort of rampant debauchery, and no one is drinking on the job, but the game still manages to provide a very quirky adaptation of life in the advertising sector.

Your role in Campaign: The Game is to make a lot of important decisions before, during, and after each ad campaign your agency takes on. You’ll be presented with a list of possible projects as well as the demographics associated with each of them. After choosing one, you’ll have to do your best to concoct a media frenzy that reaches enough people. This boils down to selecting a theme — from beaches to zombies and beyond — and then finding an emotion to present it with. For example, if you’re marketing to an older demographic, something nostalgic might do the trick.

With that said, not all of the best decisions have logic behind them. Some of the most successful campaigns I launched were the ones where I ignored the most obvious choices. And I’m being vague here on purpose, as much of the game’s fun comes from trying out random things and seeing what sticks.

While picking the proper emotion and theme is very important, choosing the right venues for your ads is also crucial. I can’t say with any certainty that this is correct, but I suspect children are not quite as susceptible to radio ads as they are to ones on TV. Or maybe I’m just a little too cynical about the youth of today.

Once you get the ball rolling, your team will begin creating an ad campaign. The process takes about a minute — though it can be sped up in the options — and you’ll be confronted with in-house dilemmas and revision demands from your clients. While you’ve typically no choice but to say yes to your clients, the decisions you make while dealing with employees (who you can hire and fire) will affect your overall clout as well as the outcome of the campaign you’re working on. Much like everything else in the game, there’s a clear humorous angle to these scenarios, and it makes the whole process a lot more entertaining.

Campaign The Game     Campaign The Game

The briefness of the campaigns and frequent demand for the player to resolve problems means you need to be glued to your device from beginning to end of each one. This isn’t the kind of sim where you can plant some metaphorical seeds and return later to see how it all worked out. That bothered me at first, but then I realized I was taking issue with a game for not trying to shoo me away. Despite its mechanical similarities to many other casual sim games, Campaign the Game does not subscribe to the “cooldown” concept that many others do.

But that doesn’t mean playing the game for hours at a time is advisable. In fact, doing so can get pretty monotonous. It’s the kind of experience that’s best in small doses, or to kill a few minutes with here and there. When approached in that way, it’s a lot of fun. And best of all, you’ll walk away each time with the feeling that you actually accomplished something.

The only real issue I had with Campaign the Game is the level of typos it contained. They occasionally broke my focus, and muddled what would have otherwise been funny quips. But it’s an easy problem to get over, and in general I had a blast. I failed many times and let down many clients, but it was a lot of fun dabbling and seeing what themes and decisions resonated best with the various demographics.

I still refuse to give away my in-game secrets, but I won’t deny that combining zombies with romance is worth trying out.