Michael Phelps and Danny McBride Go to Outer Space for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Fleeing Earth, into the otherworldly CoD universe

With global temperatures rising and the most obscene U.S. presidential election in recent memory taking place, 2016 might feel like the worst year ever. But whether you're an average joe on the street or celebrity swimmer Michael Phelps, Call of Duty's new game, Infinite Warfare, is ready to help you escape.

The new live-action trailer for the Activision title opens on a young man beset by dire news reports. Beside himself, he does the only reasonably thing. He hops in a spaceship and takes off from Earth altogether.

"2016 has been a year full of shock and head shaking," says Matthew Curry, group creative director at 72andSunny, which created the ad. "As we got further into the year, the idea that you could leave the insanity behind to go have some badass fun felt like rich territory. So we came up with the ultimate solution to a world gone mad: Screw it! Let's go to space."

Cue blastoff to a high-octane interplanetary gunfight, wherein the ad fulfills its obligation as a CoD trailer to deliver a explosion-packed, celebrity-studded fantasy blending live action and computer graphics, ultimately featuring surprise banter between Phelps and comedian Danny McBride. (A red-band trailer, launching Friday, will feature more in that vein.) 

As usual, a driving, guitar-driven soundtrack—in this case, "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses—is key. (Past CoD ads have featured "Gimme Shelter" and "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones. Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," meanwhile, featured in a 72andSunny ad for another Activision title, Destiny).

"Classic rock has a timeless cool to it," says Curry. It fits perfectly with the badass fun and swagger of the Call of Duty brand. For this particular spot … we considered everything from end-of-the-world songs to songs about escape. In the end, 'Welcome to the Jungle' had the perfect tone and message to tee up the badass fun of battling through the chaos of space."

As for casting, diversity was the driving factor, based on emphasizing the CoD franchise's broader sales pitch—"There's a soldier in all of us." But there was some strategy in the cameos, as well. "We instantly loved the idea of taking Michael Phelps, the winningest human on Earth, and putting him in space to see how he fared," says Curry. "Danny McBride was the perfect person to steal his kill, and his thunder."

The trailer, launching today, is the culmination of a massive push to promote latest title in a hugely success franchise. Infinite Warfare, launching Nov. 4, is the first to be set in space. "The campaign for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare consisted of literally over 100 marketing elements, all highlighting what is unique and different about this title," says Todd Harvey, svp of global consumer marketing at Activision.

"With 'Screw It, Let's Go to Space,' we've focused on creating a broad message that taps into the pop culture happening around us, while transporting players into the new game world of Infinite Warfare. The launch of Call of Duty is a pop-culture moment, and in that sense, the news of the day serves as a great starting point to play on that sense of escapism to enjoy the next epic entertainment launch of the year."

Past elements in the campaign have included the ambitious "Hostile Takeover" in-game activation in the prior Black Ops 3 title. Social activations launching later this week will include #EarthWorldProblems—a Twitter response campaign from Edelman playing on the popular #FirstWorldProblems trope, and "Terminal Tours" from AKQA—a Facebook Messenger walkthrough of the dangers of playing CoD in space.

As for whether 72andSunny had a specific candidate in mind, as the one moderating punches in the face during a particularly egregious debate, Curry maintains it was "no one in particular. We wanted a line that spoke to the insanity of the election season, so we really gunned at an unbelievable moment. Problem is, things have been so crazy that no matter how hyperbolic we went, you could argue it was still believable."

In other words, strap in.


Activision, Call of Duty Team:

Chief Executive Officer, Activision Publishing: Eric Hirshberg

Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer: Tim Ellis

Senior Vice President, Global Consumer Marketing: Todd Harvey

Senior Vice President, Consumer Engagement, Digital Marketing, Public Relations: Monte Lutz

Senior Director, Consumer Marketing: Carolyn Wang

Senior Manager, Consumer Marketing: David Cushman

Associate Manager, Consumer Marketing: Jared Castle

Coordinator, Consumer Marketing: Lynn Ballew

Senior Director, Digital Marketing: Justin Manfredi

Senior Manager, Digital Marketing: Rich Elmore

Senior Manager, Digital Marketing: Mario Sgambelluri

Digital Marketing Associate Manager: Peter Bowman

Vice President, Global Media: Caroline McNeil

Senior Director, Global Media: Simone Deocares-Lengyel

72andSunny Team

Chief Executive Officer: John Boiler

Chief Creative Officer: Glenn Cole

Chief Strategy Officer: Matt Jarvis

Director of Strategy: Bryan Smith

Chief Production Officer: Tom Dunlap

Group Creative Director: Matthew Curry

Creative Directors: Robert Teague, Tim Wolfe

Senior Designer: Jon Hall

Writer: Matt Meszaros

Designer: Lauren Albee

Group Production Director: Angelo Mazzamuto

Senior Film Producer: Dave Stephenson

Junior Film Producer: Skyler Courter

Group Brand Director: Rhea Curry

Brand Director: Simon Hall

Senior Brand Manager: Brett Schneider

Brand Manager: Will Nader

Strategy Director: Daniel Teng

Strategist: Jake Watt

Partnerships and Legal Director: Kallie Halbach

Partnerships and Legal Manager: Jesse Sinkiewicz

Partnerships and Legal Coordinator: Molly Hogan

Production Company: Pony Show Entertainment

Director: Peter Berg

Director of Photography: John Schwartzman

Production Designer: Jeff Mann

Partner: Susan Kirson

Executive Producer: Helga Gruber

Head of Production: Gareth Wood

Editorial: Work Editorial

Editor: Jono Griffith

Assistant Editor: Keith Hamm

Executive Producer: Marlo Baird

Producer: Lynne Mannino

Visual Effects: MPC

Creative Director: Paul O' Shea

Visual Effects Supervisor: Michael Gregory

Computer Graphics Supervisor: David White

Colorist: Ricky Gausis

Visual Effects Producer: Matt Olmon

Line Producer: Ekta Gupta

Visual Effects Coordinator: Sarah Laborde

2-D Lead: Nikkesh K

2-D Supervisor: David Rouxel

3-D Lead: Jacob Oommen

Visual Effects: Pixomondo

Visual Effects Supervisor: Timothy Hanson

Executive Producer: Mandie Briney

Visual Effects Producer: John Baer

Bidding Producer: Patrick Neighly

Digital Effects Supervisor: Patrick Schuler

Compositing Supervisor: Spencer Hecox

Previz Supervisor: Matt McClurg

Paint/Roto Supervisor: Lance Ranzer

Rigger/Maya Technical Director: York Schueller

Senior Production Coordinator: Enoch Davis

Production Coordinator: Antonia Oelmann

Costumes: Legacy Effects

Effects Supervisor: J. Alan Scott

Production Coordinator: Damon Weathers

Sound Design: Formosa Group

Supervising Sound Editors: Per Hallberg

Sound Designers: Ann Scibelli, Jon Title, D. Chris Smith

First Assistant Sound Editor: Philip D. Morrill

Recording Studio, Mix: Lime

Mixers: Rohan Young, Jeff Malen

Assistants: Ben Tomastik, Lisa Mermelstein

Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan

OMD Team

Group Account Director: Natalie Holbrook

Associate Media Director: Carly Haw

Media Supervisor: Amir Ghareaghadje

Senior Media Strategist: Justin Levenstein

Media Strategist: Natalie Garretson

Assistant Media Strategist: Deveny Rohrer


Senior Vice President, Brand Marketing and Communications: Michele Wyman

Senior Director, Brand Marketing and Communications: Mark Van Lommel

Senior Director, Talent Relations: Jonathan Kichaven

Senior Account Executive, Talent Relations: Ashley Studer

Program Manager: Chong Kim

Account Executive, Brand Marketing and Communications: Renee Felton


Executive Creative Director: Jordan Atlas

Group Director, Activision: Zach Tindall

Vice President, Strategy, Activision: Sam Kennedy

Associate Creative Director: Chris Swanson

Senior Account Supervisor, Activision: Lauren Curtis

Senior Strategist, Call of Duty: Ben Lewis

Project Manager, Activision: Katie Stemler

Copywriters: Gabe Duran, Ronnie Lee, Matt Kugler

Art Director: Michele Pappas

Designers: Alex Sutton-Hough, Ji Choi

Senior Community Manager: Justin Fitzwater

Community Managers: Kurt Wendler, Jason Suh

Vice President, Insights and Analytics: Michael Fein

Manager, Insights and Analytics: Jocelyn Swift

Analysts: Tyler Phillippi, Carol Chu

Junior Analyst: Megan Cooper



Group Creative Director: Nick Strada

Creative Director: E.B. Davis

Art Director: Nils Westgardh

Art Director, Photographer: Oscar Wickman

Associate Copywriter: Tandeka Lauriciano

Senior Designers: Cliff Li, Hovin Wang, Charles Calixto, Enoch Tengler, Randy Santos


Client Partner: Kristin Goto

Account Director: Erin Morgan


Program Manager, Executive Producer: Cody Lucas

Director, Film and Motion: David Shuff

Motion Designer: Ryan Jones

Senior Production Artist: Jim MacMurray

MediaMonks Films:

Director: Rogier Schalken

Assistant Director: Mel Anderson

Director of Photography: Dallas Sterling

Executive Producer: Lauren Becker

Line Production: Theresa Marth, Mark Aran

Post Supervisor: Wesley Kolsteeg

Post Producers: Marlose de Rijke, Gerben Molenaar


Head Writer: Scott Ganz

Writers: Eva Steele-Saccio, Jessica Kitchens, Nicholas Pelczar

Operations Manager, Producer: Jennifer Dobbs

Head of Enterprise: Mike Houlahan

Infrastructure Engineering Lead: James Chalfant

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@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.