Kevin Butler, the fictional character made up for Sony's PS3 advertising campaign, did NOT appear in the recent Bridgestone commercial highlighting the Nintendo Wii, according to Bridgestone. Rather, actor Jerry Lambert (the person behind Butler) was playing a simple "tire engineer".
Bridgestone is currently locked in a nasty lawsuit in which Sony claims "violations of the Lanham Act, misappropriation, breach of contract and tortious interference with a contractual relationship" were made between Lambert and the tire company. Sony's full statement read:
We invested significant resources in bringing the Kevin Butler character to life and he’s become an iconic personality directly associated with PlayStation products over the years. Use of the Kevin Butler character to sell products other than those from PlayStation misappropriates Sony’s intellectual property, creates confusion in the market, and causes damage to Sony.
Bridgestone insists, however, that Lambert was not playing Butler in the ad. The problem isn't so much that Lambert was in a Bridgestone commercial. The problem is the commercial was for Bridgestone's new "Game On" promotion which gives those who purchase four Bridgestone tires a free $70 American Express reward card or a Nintendo Wii system. Here in lies the problem Sony has with Lambert in the commercial.
During the original commercial, Lambert is seen playing Mario Kart on the Wii. Despite Lambert's contract expiring three days prior to the advertisement airing (according to CVG), an "exclusivity clause" prevents the actor from having his likeness used alongside any rival games product or console — like the Nintendo Wii.
“Mr. Lambert is one of the actors who appeared in the commercial as a Bridgestone engineer. Bridgestone denies that Kevin Butler appears in the Bridgestone commercial discussed herein and thus denies that he speaks or does anything whatsoever in the commercial," Bridgestone defends.
I have no doubt that Bridgestone intentionally chose Lambert based on his popularity amongst the gaming community. He may not have been playing Kevin Butler, but we all sure as hell recognize him as that character. Seeing a face so closely tied with the PlayStation 3 advertising for another game system is obviously going to turn a few heads and raise a few flags. I firmly believe Bridgestone knew what they were doing when hiring Lambert, and I can't really say that I blame Sony for taking action.