On Sunday, April 14th a global audience was rewarded with the beginning of the end; the first episode of the long-awaited eighth (and final) season of Game of Thrones. Not only did it represent the near-culmination of (three days shy of) an eight-year relationship for many viewers, but the highly-anticipated episode had been the first in nearly twenty months. Fair warning, if you’re among the annoying minority who are so proud of the fact that you’ve never seen an episode of GoT that you feel compelled to post elitist click-bait memes about it (just so that you can passive-aggressively feel connected to the phenomenon) this story might not be for you. Then again, if you’re currently shopping SUVs – comparing the 2019 GMC Acadia vs 2019 Dodge Durango – you might be closer to the story than you realize.
Over the course of the last twenty years, the long-perceived rules of television have been rewritten in unprecedented fashion. Of course, Netflix has played a major role in recent years, but the evolution began around the turn of the millennium. After a near-decade of network channels force-feeding the complacent masses with progressively Bradbury-esque dystopian reality shows, those hungering for substance were quick to embrace the award-winning quality of premier cable television series like The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood and Breaking Bad. The phenomenon would then expand to embrace a sense of escapism, attracting audiences to genre-based series like GoT. And faster than a hot girl on Instagram can throw on a pair of glasses and call herself a nerd, tens of millions of viewers found themselves taking side with the warring powers of Westeros (and Essos).
And advertisers took notice. While commercial sponsorship may not be as evident on cable programming as it is in network equivalents, it is still very much present. From the automotive industry to the NFL, major corporations are eager for the inevitable payoff of joining forces with the Iron Throne. But on a series like GoT advertising presents a unique challenge due to the risqué nature of its content, anachronism of product placement, and lack of organic synergies.
Although this one still makes us laugh..
But after eight years, winter has finally come to Westeros. And while advertisers are keen to jump aboard that cross-marketing train, the timing of the April premier makes it a hard sell for some. With much of the country emerging from an actual winter full of brutal cold, it feels counterintuitive for marketers to push anything other than the adventurous, carefree and sexy fun of the coming months. ’Summer is Coming’ has, of course, been an underlying theme of automotive sales long before the world had any idea who the Night King was. So the alternative becomes humorous character-centric pieces built around GoT favorites encountering modern technologies. Needless to say, it makes for an interesting fit.
Here are just a few ideas of how marketers might approach it:
- Might Bran Stark be the perfect candidate for a new set of wheels (maybe an all-terrain Wrangler)?
- Could Jon Snow be the new face of EV offerings, criticizing limitations of electrification only to be told that he ‘knows nothing’?
- Sir Jorah might make an excellent spokesperson for the GM Loyalty Program.
- Would the lifestyle change experienced by Cersei and Jaime Lannister after the loss of their children make a strong case for embracing the two-seat freedom of a Mazda MX-5 Miata?
- Could Ford market the Ford Raptor using Theon Greyjoy, showing that – if you have the right truck – you don’t have to have anything between the legs?
- Brienne of Tarth could explore the surprisingly spacious cabin of the Nissan Murano.
- Let’s be honest, Arya Stark might provide a superb endorsement for the changing face of KIA. Although ‘Valar Morghulis’ (all men must die) might be a better motto for troubled airbag manufacturer, Takata.
- And who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall for Samwell Tarly & Gilly visiting a dealership, after deciding that they need to upgrade for more seating and cargo space. If nothing else, the chance of witnessing Gilly’s negotiation-style would be worth it…
Call us crazy, but the possibilities are endless. And while it might be too late to negotiate a 1000 hp fire-breathing Dodge Dracarys with the powers-that-be at FCA, let us be clear that we’d still be on board if it were to happen.