By Greg Manago, Creative Development and Production Lead / Executive Producer, Mindshare Content+ and Entertainment
It’s not all just fight scenes, white walkers, and dragons: we’re here to unearth the marketing principles lurking in “Game of Thrones,” season five. Here’s what we took away from episode eight, “Hardhome.”
Whoa. What else can you say to an episode that brought us Tyrion and Dany’s first meeting, the White Walkers in action, Arya’s first mission for the Many Faced God, a giant stomping the army of the undead left and right, and Jon Snow swinging his Valyrian steel like a true badass? This was definitely the most exciting episode all season. Personally, I didn’t think Jon was going to make it to the end in one piece.
But aside from the thrills and chills, what can marketers learn from last night’s carnage? It could be: “Clients can be as unforgiving as Daenerys was to Ser Jorah” or even: “The advertising business can be as brutal as the Battle at Hardhome.” But, I think the real theme of this week’s episode was the power of data and insights.
As last night’s episode began, we saw Ser Jorah and Tyrion trying to convince the Breaker of Chains that she should welcome them into her court. Dany’s been making an awful lot of assumptions about how she can get to the Iron Throne and how she can rule once she makes it. Tyrion explained that as a lifelong resident of King’s Landing, he has the data and insights about her future subjects to be indispensable for her future.
Data is the new black in the current advertising landscape — and just like the Mother of Dragons, we need actionable insights to help us steer our marketing campaigns. Some feel that data and creative are forces in opposition. But as someone on the creative side, I strongly disagree: data and insights have the power to fuel truly inspired work. Using insights to come up with a great idea and data to grab the consumer at just the right moment, in just the right place, can be a tremendous experience — one that can lead to very sharable creative. Our industry can’t afford to ignore that. Thankfully, it seems like Tyrion convinced Dany of his value. With a data scientist like Tyrion Lannister at her side, I am putting my money on the Mother of Dragons.
Of course, Jon Snow did some focus group research himself among the wildlings at Hardhome. As expected, the Free Folk were not all down with his plan to link arms, sing Kum Ba Yah, and head south of the wall. As one of the Thenns said: “This [man] is my enemy and he will always be my enemy.” Many of us have sat through focus groups that just don’t seem to be going the way we wanted — but what can you do in that situation? In the real world, the only thing to do is sit there and keep gathering information, as painful as it may be. Because even people telling you the deficiencies in your plan or product can be valuable as you try to refine it.
But when stuff got real and the White Walkers showed up to the party, Jon Snow got some truly valuable in-market research. We saw King Crow defeat the head White Walker with his Valyrian Steel sword — something even Jon was surprised by! And we saw how the White Walkers can turn the dead into zombies with a nonchalant flick of the wrist. Hopefully, this information, along with the testimony of the surviving Free Folk, will be useful to Jon upon his return to Castle Black. Research can be expensive, but it’s too bad this valuable information came at such a high price in human lives.
There are only two episodes to go this season, and I can’t wait to see how they’re going to tie up some of these loose ends. As long as Brienne kills Ramsay Bolton, I will be happy — but I am also wondering: what happened to our old friend Varys? Our favorite eunuch is one week away from becoming the “Russian in the Woods” of this series. I guess we’ll know soon enough. See you next week.