Selling the Dream
While the adverts shown in Europe for the Dreamcast were criticized for their vagueness and poor imitation of the PlayStation’s 90s avant-garde logo focused promotion, the commercials in the USA and Japan were entertaining, intriguing, and had a unique style all of their own. It was a theme of most of the consoles in the late nineties to develop a 'brand' rather than showing any actual gaming footage or other segments that would suggest the product was toy. Instead, a common theme would be to display a logo accompanied by a track of whichever band happened to be popular at the time. Interestingly, the launch commercials for the Dreamcast in North America, although not featuring any gameplay, at least featured both the Dreamcast's logo and console quite prominently, as well as some of Sega's most well known characters like Sonic in its commercials so viewers knew what the hell it was trying to sell. The basic plot revolved around the theme of a virus called “Dreamcast”,which is infecting people and as people try to flee the Dreamcast orange DC logos everywhere and there would be slogan's like, "Outsmarting it...will only make it smarter." Before finishing, "it's thinking.”
While in Europe we got a sweaty old European guy cutting some blokes hair, with Robby Blobby Williams screeching, "Let me entertain you", before a posh voiced exclaimed, “Up to 6 billion players”. No games, no console, no famous Sega characters, nothing but the blue swirl at the end. Problem was, not only was this advert crap but the tag line that Sega Europe was pushing was a bit pointless seeing as the European Dreamcast didn't actually have any online games until ChuChu Rocket arrived a year or so later.
Conversely, Sega of Japan, which had a lot of success with their Saturn commercials featuring Segata Sanshiro, a Judo master and parody of Sugata Sanshiro, a legendary judo fighter from the Kurosawa film Judo Saga, tracks down and beats the crap out of anyone who doesn't play Saturn. Humorous, and interesting, the adverts were so popular that they became a long running series in Japan with each commercial linking to the next. Japanese love characters so this idea of a central figure was followed up with the Dreamcast, but this time the protagonist became Hidekazu Yukawa, the actual Senior Managing Director of Sega. The first commercial shows Yukawa overhearing some kids talking about crap Sega is and praising Sony and the PlayStation. Saddened by this, he mentions what he had heard to his employees and later hits the streets to wallow in his own sorrow. While in his state of despair, some gang members rough him up and say some demeaning things to him. He finally staggers home where his wife finds him as a total mess. When the commercial ends, you hear a kid say,“Get to your feet, Yukawa!” Subsequent episodes showed Yukawa with the Japanese idol of that era, Hideaki Takizawa, heading to to streets to sell Dreamcasts door-to-door, with Takizawa becoming a big hit with old women and the team bringing some success for Sega. So much in fact that in the final couple of episodes Yukawa again comes out to apologise for the real-life shortages of the system before announcing in the very final one that they are back in stock. The Sega commercials were so popular that they won the excellence prize during the 38th ACC All Japan CM Festival which had over 3000 other TV and radio entries.
The Yukawa series became so popular that Sega's managing director also made a couple of appearances in Dreamcast games, "Yukawa Motosenmu no Otakara Sagashi" and "What's Shenmue?". In Yukawa Motosenmu no Otakara Sagashi (literally Former Managing Director Yukawa's Treasure Hunt), you play the role of Yukawa and you need to look for Sega branded items that are buried underground on an island. Equipped with only a shovel, as Yukawa you have to scour the land in an attempt to find and dig up items such as backpacks, VMUs, and posters and once you’ve collected all six pieces for the item, it will be stored in your inventory so you can view the final trinket as whole. The online portion of this allowed the player to register their items to win various Sega branded prizes and a fat check for a hundred million yen, but you only had between 20th of March - April 11, 1999, so you might be a bit late now.