Game of Thrones is unlike many others series in that it is on-air only for a few weeks each year, meaning that the show’s producers face a very particular dilemma: Keep fan passion and interest going for the rest of the year when other shows and content are competing for the fans’ attention.
Since its premiere, Game of Thrones has always resorted to unusual forms of advertisement. For example, in 2011, food trucks serving delicacies described in the novels headed to Los Angeles and to New York and influencers received scents and scrolls reflecting the world of Westeros, while in 2013, a dragon took over the pages of the New York Times.
On top of these localised activities (that still sparked a global buzz), fans found several ways to interact with Game of Thrones online, such as the sigil creator, the Roast of Joffrey, and an official guide to each iconic death in the series. All of these activities had one thing in common: They carried a feeling of intimacy and passion for fans.
The Three-Eyed Raven Brings the Sight
Leading up to the latest season (#5) , which is currently on-air, the producers tried to continue this feeling of intimacy and passion, hit people in unexpected ways, while integrating the experience into the daily experiences of users and creating meaningful experiences for them. The result of this was “The Three-Eyed Raven”.
In “The Three-Eyed Raven”, fans could sign up by submitting their phone number or Twitter details. Once the project started, they began to receive 8-second-long “visions,” i.e. videos featuring moments from the show (past & coming), either by text message or by direct message on Twitter. Just like the actual visions in Game of Thrones, the visions indicated what might or might not happen in the next season, and could only be seen one time – no repeats, no replays (even if hard-core fans of course found ways to record the visions anyway). What’s more, not all users received the same vision.
At first, fans got angry when they noticed that they could only see the vision once – however, they soon loved it and waited for more, now knowing the rules of the game. The vision featuring Arya alone got 3 million views (click to view video):
Moreover, due to the fact that not everyone received the same vision, there was a huge buzz on social media as fans discussed and shared information regarding the different types of visions. The fact that 60% of users were millenials helped to increase the social conversation even further, to the point that 88% of registered users were talking/sharing on social media. For example, fans began to create unboxing-videos of receiving the next vision.
The creators of “The Three-Eyed Raven” tracked user reactions very closely and didn’t just monitor what fans were saying, but also the emotions they expressed, so as to gather more meaningful data than mere content impressions.
All in all, the visions turned out to be an extremely meaningful marketing and entertainment experience for fans. Due to the fact that they were distributed by text message and Twitter, they were generally received on one of the users’ most intimate devices – their smartphones, making the entire experience extremely personal. Moreover, the intimacy of the device fit with the intimacy of the visions as they are shown in Game of Thrones: Personal, dream-like sequences experienced by a selected few. The intimacy of the delivery also helped to surprise and shock despite the overall over-saturation that makes both increasingly difficult.
At the same time, the concept of the entire campaign was relatively simple – through a bit of tweaking, it turned classic content play into a special, unexpected occasion – even for the most involved and blasé fans. The panelists stressed, however, that the overall integration of the campaign in the production processes was crucial, in that they received real-time content from sets as it was shot, enabling them to create the visions (where only a few seconds of content were needed anyway).
This panel was definitely one of my favorites at SXSW 2015, due to the fact that the producer’s creativity allowed them to run a campaign that was relatively simple in design, yet still brought about meaningful interactions even for the most involved super-fans; interactions, that let fans live through important and magical experiences straight from the world of Game of Thrones. Moreover, “The Three-Eyed Raven” also lent itself perfectly to fan rituals such as sharing knowledge, piecing together information and dissecting source material, and consuming and experiencing entertainment collectively, often aided by social media and practices like unboxing.