Three Lessons for Advertisers from Game of Thrones

The blockbuster HBO series Game of Thrones started its seventh season this summer, solidifying its place as a pop culture phenomenon. Variety reports the first episode drew more than 16 million viewers and more than 2.4 million mentions on Twitter, both network records. The excitement isn’t just limited to viewers wondering if Jon Snow can hold the North, or if Daenerys Targaryen will reclaim the Iron Throne. Increasingly, those in the advertising world believe this hit show has important lessons to teach the industry. Here are three examples of how this popular program is reinforcing key themes for advertisers:

Quality matters

As consumers spend more time watching video, they have growing expectations about its streaming quality. At a time when video consumption habits are shifting to a proliferating collection of devices like smartphones, tablets, connected TVs and laptops, broadcasters like HBO are scrambling to ensure they have the right technology and bandwidth to handle demand. The same demand for high quality holds true for advertisers as well, who need to use best-in-breed technology to ensure their creative looks perfect on all screens and devices.

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Advertisers can always be part of the conversation

Given that Game of Thrones is available commercial free, it’s easy to assume there’s no opportunity for advertisers to associate themselves with this wildly successful show. But as we saw with the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, brands are getting more creative with their targeting strategies, allowing them to join the conversation even when media costs are high or no advertising inventory exists. Meanwhile, a show recaps and analysis have become a great boon for media outlets on all platforms, offering additional opportunities for advertisers to reach Game of Thrones fans. In addition, more brands are incorporating show cast members into ad campaigns, adding yet another option.

Mobile and social offer new opportunities for advertisers and content creators

Game of Thrones is a 60-minute-long show. But could we see 20-minute-long episodes in the future? One person that’s not ruling it out is AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, the top executive for the company that may soon own the HBO network thanks to its pending merger with Time Warner. Stephenson has speculated that the show might have more traction on mobile devices in smaller time segments due to consumers’ shorter attention spans. A 20-minute cut down of the current Game of Thrones series is a long shot. But there’s a chance that future spin-off content based on the show could be designed with mobile viewers in mind, and new show-themed programming like Bill Simmons “Talk of Thrones” on Twitter will lead to new sponsorship opportunities for advertisers.

Game of Thrones is broadcast on a network that doesn’t display ads. But the influence of this insanely popular entertainment property is likely to have an impact far beyond the latest fan theories about Jon Snow and the Seven Kingdoms. For the advertising industry, lessons like the importance of video ad quality, new creative ways to be part of the conversation and growing opportunities on mobile and social will continue to resonate long after the show’s finale.

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