Nintendo, would you please advertise the 3DS? For real this time?

Hey, The Lion King’s 3D re-release topped the box-office charts over the weekend! (Go Simba!)  Wouldn’t that have been the perfect opportunity for Nintendo to stick pre-movie ads for a certain little handheld game machine? Then again, at this point, wouldn’t anyplace be a great spot for some 3DS advertising?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered a super-accurate meter for measuring Nintendo’s penetration into mainstream pop culture, and I’m sure many of you use the same gauge: it’s my pool of co-workers. I’m employed in an office with about 50 others. At the height of the Wii and DS popularity, more than half of them–ranging in age from mid-twenties to early sixties–owned a DS and/or a Wii. Most of them had never owned a game machine before, or had not bought one since the Atari 2600. They bought DS for Brain Age and stayed aboard for Mario and Professor Layton (and, basically, anything Lisa Kudrow advertised). They bought Wii for Wii Fit and stuck around for Mariokart and New Super Mario Brothers. It was a great time to be a fan, watching non-gamers discover the joys of first-party Nintendo.

Cut to today. Those same co-workers all own iPhones and not a single one of them (and, believe me, I’ve asked) know the 3DS exists.

We all know promoting 3DS presents a unique challenge: How do you advertise something you can’t demonstrate on TV? Well, there’s the “take a look inside” campaign–a good try. But, remember how–just before launch–Nintendo declared they were going to rely primarily on “Word of Mouth” to sell 3DS? We all know how well that turned out.

Okay, Nintendo, time to take off the white gloves, dig into your bank account, and get the attention of mainstream America. Hire Johnny Depp. Hire Lady Gaga. Hire Gerard Butler. Bring back Lisa Kudrow, because she’s awesome. Pay them whatever they want: spend money to make money. Saturate prime-time television with clever ads. Have Depp ducking canon fire. Have Kudrow giggling in Starbucks while smacking her friend with tennis balls in Face Raiders. Have Butler cursing as he fights the dragon that’s bursting out of his coffee table.

Nintendo needs to saturate prime-time television for a few weeks and get the attention of the ever-so-fickle casual mainstream. They need to highlight the familiar Miis, the 3D films, the Netflix, the 3D camera (and 3D video capture coming this Nov.), the family-friendly eShop, and the great games coming out this Holiday season.

The company can’t hope for the same immediate runaway success that they had with Brain-Age era DS: the competition’s much tougher today. But they can certainly get 3DS into the public consciousness. Up to now, it seems like they haven’t even tried.

What do you think? The two new Mario games will attract fans in the next three months, but can Nintendo get 3DS “noticed” by everyone else this winter?