Game of Thrones is a me­dia dream

Irish Independent - Business Week - - BUSINESSWEEK -

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 fire­breath­ing 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 big­bud­get 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? Q 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. Q 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 Ap­pli­ancesDe­liv­ered.ie. 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. Q 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. Q 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 Mar­ket­ing.ie; cullen@ mar­ket­ing.ie

Emilia Clarke as ex­iled queen Daen­erys Tar­garyen in ‘Game of Thrones’

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