Saturday 21 April 2018

AdLib: Game of Thrones is a media dream

Media & marketing...

Emilia Clarke as exiled queen Daenerys Targaryen in 'Game of Thrones'
Emilia Clarke as exiled queen Daenerys Targaryen in 'Game of Thrones'
Martin King and Lucy Kennedy

Michael Cullen

Thanks to chance or a generous slice of serendipity, 'Game of Thrones' TV series creators David Benioff and DB Weiss first met at a gathering in Dublin in 1995. The pair teamed up again a decade later in the US. As greenhorn screenwriters, they were spellbound by George RR Martin's 'A Game of Thrones' - the first novel in his 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series.

They pitched an idea to Martin in Hollywood over a long lunch which stretched out to dinner. When they passed the novelist's test - correctly answering 'Who is Jon Snow's mother?' - they won the right to convert the books into a TV series for HBO.

After a rocky start, 'Game of Thrones' reinvented the fantasy genre on the small screen. The seventh series starts next Monday on Sky Atlantic, with seven of the 13 final episodes airing this summer.

'Game of Thrones' is an advertiser's dream. With death, romance, sex, family feuds, epic battles and a trio of fire-breathing dragons, there is something for everyone among its average 25 million viewers per episode shown in 199 territories worldwide.

There is no holding back, as evidenced by an unprecedented willingness to ruthlessly murder its stars.

Sean Bean was first up, when his Ned Stark character was shockingly beheaded in season one.

The show's first season ended with exiled queen Daenerys Targaryen, hatching three baby dragons, each the size of a Labrador pup. Comparisons have been made with 'The Lord of the Rings', with Martin's Westeros a dead ringer for JRR Tolkien's Middle-earth.

Shows were filmed in Croatia, Spain, Iceland, Malta, Morocco and Canada, but locations around Northern Ireland put Belfast and landmarks in Antrim on the tourism map.

The 'Door of Thrones' ad campaign is said to have reached 126 million people and generated an estimated €13m in media coverage for Tourism Ireland.

In January last year, Storm Gertrude struck. The Dark Hedges near Ballymoney, which doubles for the Kingsroad in the series, was hit by winds more ruthless than Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Tourism Ireland used wood from the fallen trees to make 10 special doors, each one depicting an episode from the show's sixth season. The doors now hang in pubs and other venues across the North, adding to the 'Game of Thrones' tourist trail.

The ads have won over 30 international gongs, most recently gold, silver and bronze Lions at this year's Cannes festival. 'Game of Thrones' has provided Sky Atlantic with a monster success. A typical 10-episode season generates the equivalent of five big-budget movie blockbusters. Every show boasts a budget of at least $10m (€8.7m).

But as Enda Kenny would testify, every reign must come to an end. The question now being asked for the last time throughout the Seven Kingdoms is who will win the game in the end?

* Gary Bampton has been appointed to the new position of head of operations at Core Media. He will be responsible for co-ordinating the group's business operations. He joins from Realex Payments. Run by Alan Cox, Core consists of nine agencies - Spark Foundry, Starcom, Mediaworks, Zenith, Core Knowledge, Engage Communications, Livewire, Ignite and Radical - and employs 293 people.

Bampton's appointment coincides with Mediavest winning the Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard (IDPR) account in a four-way contest with Havas, Mindshare and the incumbent Vizeum. The pitch was handled by Ebiquity Marsh, working to marketing director Catherine Casserly. IDPR brands include Jameson, Cork Dry Gin, Absolut Vodka and Jacob's Creek. Sales of Irish whiskey increased by 12.4pc last year, with Jameson leading the way, selling 5.7 million cases, boosted by exports to Irish whiskey's biggest market, the US.

Martin King and Lucy Kennedy

* NordMende has signed up as sponsor of 'The Six O'Clock Show' on TV3 in a six-month deal. The week-night show, which is presented by Lucy Kennedy and Martin King (pictured), has a heavy female bias, with just over 30,000 women and 12,200 men tuning in. The show's last sponsor was The sponsorship will see chefs using NordMende cooking appliances, distributed in Ireland by the Kal Group. The package includes the show's online sponsorship on the 3player.

* Over at Newstalk, Mastercard has replaced Energia as sponsor of Pat Kenny's show, which airs from 9am to noon weekdays. The partnership will see some branding on the show linked in to coverage on travel, food and sport.

*Thinkhouse has launched an online magazine called 'Youth'. As agency director Jane McDaid points out, 72pc of young audiences believe the media does not portray them accurately. 'Youth' will be edited by former producer-writer-director Dave Coffey, who co-starred in the RTÉ 2 comedy 'Dan & Becs' with Holly White.

The magazine will cover sex, photography, party culture and "kick-ass women". If all goes to plan, Thinkhouse may team up with an international media owner. A print version could also be on the cards.

Michael Cullen is editor of;

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