Call Of Duty Ads 'Hideous Marketing', Says Soldier

Activision's big-budget Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill commercials for Modern Warfare 3 won a lot of fans, but novelist, essayist and former paratrooper DB Grady is not one of them.

Writing on The Atlantic, Grant — "a former paratrooper with US Army Special Operations Command and a veteran of Afghanistan" — says the commercial series "trivialises and sanitises war to an extreme, setting a new low.

"The advertisement trivialises combat and sanitises war," he writes. "If this were September 10, 2001, maybe it wouldn't be quite so bad. Those who are too young to remember Vietnam might indulge in combat fantasies of resting heart rates while rocket-propelled grenades whiz by and of flinty glares while emptying a magazine into the enemy. But after 10 years of constant war, of thousands of amputees and flag-draped coffins, of hundreds of grief-stricken communities, did nobody involved in this commercial raise a hand and say, 'You know, this is probably a little crass. Maybe we could just show footage from the game'."

Having never been to war, I don't think I'm qualified to argue for either side of this. I will say, though, that if he wants to really talk about hideous marketing, someone should point out to him that nobody shows actual footage from a game. Ever.

The Hideous Marketing of 'Modern Warfare 3' [The Atlantic]


    If they wanted hideous marketing, you don't have to look further than Apple and their atrocious (and extremely misleading and annoying) ads.

      As far as I know, Apple doesn't advertise war, and by extension, killing as the cool thing to do.

        They do admit to child labour.


            To their credit, they did at admit it in the context of trying to root it out at their factories:

            On the other hand, they've done nothing to address the fact the raw materials used in their phones are sourced from child slave labour:


        Violence is subjective my friend. What Apple does is just another form of violence. It may not be as direct as war but so long as the current system relies on unequal national economic power there will still be needless deaths thanks to valuing marketting over quality.

          Over reaction much? I hardly think apple is to blame for the state of the world and it's unbalance. Besides they make products that are in high demand, so at the core of it it's the people who are at fault by buying apple products by sustaining this supply and demand, if you want to do something stop being a hipster and complaining via your iphone and get off the internet.

          And if there is ever any company that could be accused of producing billions of products at low standards of quality apple is certainly not one of them, that's pretty obvious. I hardly think people DIE because apple spend more on their marketing than making good computers.

            A good computer is one that people who don't know anything about computers and never want to, like :)

            Senor, you should really have a look at Louis CK's interpretation of the matter.


            (and stop whining so much)

          Do you own a car? a games console? Really you are just wilfully killing children then because you could go sell it today and donate the money to saving lives. I bet you don't though. Neither will I.

      Misleading? What is it that was shown in the ads that mislead you?

      You're so cool ilzydroid.

      The only thing I take away from Apple's commercials is the satisfaction that I don't have any friends like the cool people in them.

      "ilzydroid, you've disabled your comment targeting system so you're veering completely off topic, is something wrong".

      "It's okay, I'm going to use the Force, also I have this apple shoved up my ass".

      also RIP Porkins.

    "someone should point out to him that nobody shows actual footage from a game. Ever."

    Have I misunderstood? Nearly every ad for a game I've seen on TV lately has been actual footage. First one that comes to mind is Battlefield's "99 Problems" one.

      Not really. On the top of my head: BF3, MW3, Deus Ex: HR, FF13, Bayonetta, Fallout 3 and Fallout 3: NV, did not show any game footage at all. Mostly they are pre-rendered or CGI ads. Nintendo ads are probably the only gaming ads that show actual in-game footage.

        BF3 and MW3 definitely did, uncharted 3 did, duke nukem forever and gears of war did just to name a few. almost every game does.

        Fallout 3 and Fallout NV (and Skyrim) all showed long collages of in-game footage with voice overs and theme music at one point or another during their advertising campaigns.

        Ditto for game covers. Look at the back of MW3 & BF3. Unless u know these games, you wouldnt even know theyre fps titles!

        The awkward moment when you realise that was actual gameplay of BF3, not pre-rendered :/

          It wasn't? Then why did it still look terrible on full graphics (yes, the computer runs just fine with all ultra/whatever)? I suspect there was a little tweaking done still.

    "...trivialises and sanitises war to an extreme" - so the ads are apt then as it is exactly how the games themselves treat the subject matter...

      Indeed, but I think the point is that the advertising of an entertainment form that does that is wrong.

    DB Grady obviously doesn't watch many movies.

      Obviously you haven't read the main article being referred to here.

      Quote from the article: "Clearly it's not Black Hawk Down, but neither is it Starship Troopers. "

        Yeah those two films totally cover the ENTIRE spectrum of war films...great examples.

          Considering the context of "Hollywood movie representation of a career soldier", Robert A Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down and their movie adaptations are salient examples.

          They do portray a wide spectrum: realistic vs futuristic as well as political vs ideological.

          Mind, the Starship Troopers BOOK is a bit more tame than the movie.

    SO Games advertising is doing what American News has done for decades. wow, shock horror, maybe he should turn his attention to a medium that isn't supposed to report on how things actually are. Games are entertainment, and gen Y as a generation have been watching wars on TV and movies for a decade, no wonder it has evolved to this. Blame the government for waging decade long wars rather than Game marketers.

    Additionally, games focus on the 'pew pew you win!' side of conflict. At least cinema has made some effort to humanize it.

    MW3 is atrocious to begin with...

    I thought the adverts were a bit over the top, an outsider could easily see how far it goes to glorify shooting people (in a military context)

    Not my fault that America overreacts to the tiniest little thing. Your country is the one that trivialized war, games are just reflecting the reality.

    These ads are shit anyway. Call of Duty has grown stale, they need to stop making CoD games for a couple of years and come back with something fresh and fun.

    I think the "Vet and the n00b" ad campaign is the hilarious sort of advertising that I like to see from a game whose gameplay is as stale as the Medal of Honor series. I like how they focused on the multiplayer aspect of it and had a few common multiplayer occurences (overkill with the RPG, constant hipfire, tubing) that are always fun to see on the big screen! It is also good to see a couple celebrities chucking their faces on it, just helps remind you how big CoD actually is. This Ad is a definite improvement on the [awesome] "theres a soldier in all of us" advert from the Black Op days. I am no CoD fanboy and I do acknowledge that the superior Battlefield engine was flaunted beautifully in the official Ad's made by Dice and EA. However, the advert commisioned by EA for Freddie Wong to create ( is what I would prefer to see.

    The guy lived through this shit. I'd be pissed off too if Jonah Hill suddenly represented my life.

    Meh. Freedom of speech, he's allowed his opinion. But activision are also allowed to make these ads.

    In the end it is of little consequence. If the U.S. army was better trained and didn't stop loss, and contract its soldiers for such little wages, then maybe there wouldn't be so many deaths.

    My mate served in Afghanistan and he said the U.S. troops were poorly trained and overconfident. He plays cod, and he doesn't see war that way.

    The fact of the matter is, COD is an action game and is nothing like war. It is just like an action movie, completely arbitrary entertainment.

    The U.S. army should be responsible for NOT allowing troops with stars in their eyes about glamorous war to join in the first place. I don't see how it is activisions fault for unethical recruitment standards of the US.

    THAT SAID, the Australian army has its share of inept soldiers, which really shouldn't be there. I deplore any army that doesn't immediately put an underwhelming soldier into admin just to stock out their numbers.

    Also, I DO wish some games would address other war atrocites. You never hear about the really AWFUL stuff that the alliance HAS to allow going on JUST to keep peace with groups like the Afghan National Army - its DEPLORABLE.

    Why doesn't he get mad at hollywood for making movies like 'the Expendables' or 'the Losers'? I'll tell you why, cos even though the MW series has gone to the dogs it's still the biggest entertainment product of the year making it the target of people that want to ride on it's back via controversy.

      So when gamers are portrayed as pimply perverted numb-skulls in movies or TV shows, and those of us that aren't like that complain, we are just riding on the back of said media's success via controversy?

      You are making conjecture. What makes you think that he doesn't hold a grudge against Hollywood in equal measure for misrepresenting the military and the horrors of war? Movies have for a very long time made war looked like a game. Here, war IS a game. As someone whose gone to that metaphorical hell and back, he's mad - and I don't blame him.

        How is "why doesn't he complain about Y rather than X" an arguement for not complaining about X?

        if any one actually thinks a gamer or soldier in mainstream fictional entertainment media are accurate representations then they just aren't thinking. A game can (and in this case, is) just be a bit of pointless fun, being set in a fictional what-if scenario MW does not represent what a normal soldier goes through or even how actual wars are carried out. It therefore does not follow to get upset about something that doesn't actually have any bearing on anything real, just like with movies like 'the Expendables' or what-have-you.

        Something that might have some actual traction would be ArmA 2 users making scenarios out of the Afghan War Dairies (yes these scenarios exist), as it is based on actual events in a game that is actually a sophisticated simulation used by armies worldwide for training. However these mods don't make money, don't have millions of users and don't have the eye of the general population. So is he trying to get some coverage for his books by riding on the coattails of a popular media franchise set in a fictional world with clearly unrealisticly depicted 'soldiers'? I think it's fair to say yes.

          or at the very least, maybe.

          You can claim all you want that Modern Warfare or similar other games are "just a game" for everyone, or that they should be.

          Ought =/= Is.

          Not everyone educates themselves enough to realise what war is in reality and what war is in fiction.

          It is my belief that the main "beef" of DB Grady is that these commercials (let alone the games) trivialize the loss of human life and all the horror that leads to it...not so much that the game portrays career soldiers in an unrealistic or negative way (that's another story).

          I cannot fault him for that. I don't see how you could either.

          Also, you seem really hung up on this "riding off of the other's fame" argument.

    "nobody shows actual footage from a game. Ever."

    Hey Luke Plunkett, That's a pretty lazy line of rhetoric right at the end there. BF3 and Skyrim, two AAA titles, both had ad campaigns pushing the graphical verisimilitude of their engines quite hard.

    As far as "sanitising war" Wortho' and jonah hill aren't representing war veterans; they represent online gamers. Grady states in his article that he does not object to the game in principal so why object to the fantasised representation of the people who play it? The characters, who are clearly inhabitants of the CoD unvierse and are portrayed by two well recognised A list actors, one of whom is best known for his comedy work, are pretty unlikely to be confused for real soldiers in an actual conflict. Given that Grady allows that CoD as a video game representation of war is not offensive, how does this ad cross the boundaries of good taste?

      Don't get me wrong Grady is correct; the ad is entirely offencive. I just object to Grady's logic of being able to forgive the game without forgiving the ad.


    Former soldier and novelist says, "“The advertisement trivialises combat and sanitises war”

    What I hear: "Buy my shitty made up book you stupid war game loving nerds"

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