Dan Cullen-Shute

Campaign: Advertising lessons from Game of Thrones

Dan Cullen-Shute
Campaign: Advertising lessons from Game of Thrones

Get yourself a dragon, advertising warriors.

You find yourself stumbling through the wreckage of a King's Landing-like land, your face sprayed crimson with a dear friend's arterial blood, their head now skittled around the floor by a rampant faceless army. Almost everyone you can see is fighting with every sinew in their body to survive and, as you catch a vital breath, you think to yourself: "I’m pretty sure advertising wasn’t always this flipping hard." 

There’s no doubt that, like a Dothraki barbers, there’s a lot of people finding it tough out there at the moment. Advertising today may be ugly, cut-throat and battling the hurricanes of change, but among the back-stabbing, merciless killing and gratuitous violence there’s positivity to be found. In this case, it’s in the form of the lessons our industry can learn from the wonderful world of Westeros. 

Sure, there's a few obvious ones, like don't get cocky in a fist fight with the Mountain (a massive competitor) if you don't want your eyeballs popped (your market share stolen) and your skull crushed (your margins eroded). But, really, when you boil it all down, there's only one big lesson that we should all be paying attention to. 

No matter what it takes…


Because without a flying fire-gobber or two up your sleeve, you may as well pack up your MacBook and jeff off back to the island of Naath. 

Aside from just being utterly mega, dragons are the closest thing Game of Thrones had to what our industry makes when we’re at our world-beating best. Big, exciting stuff that real people can’t help but notice. 

Dragons, like any good idea, are big, loud, utterly unique and, when pointed in the right direction, the stuff of legend, creating lasting stories that reverberate in culture for the ages. 

These beautiful beasts are not only totally devoted to their master (and very good symbols under which loyal followers will march), but they also have the intelligence to be sensitive and apathetic when needed. A piece of behaviour sadly absent in most brand communications out there in the (real) world today. 

Sure, there might be the odd bit of scorched earth, the screams of terror from people who don’t understand what’s going on and massive vet bills, but none of these things should stand in the way of striving to have one do your bidding. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy bringing a good idea into the world. And like dragons’ eggs, you may have the odd scrap or have to walk through fire before you can actually unleash one. But as any creative agency worth its weight in Valyrian steel will tell you, all the pain and hardship will be worth it in the end. 

If we’re going to thrive in this brilliant world we call culture, we need to make sure we’re constantly creating things that are spectacular, loud and – if it’s truly new – terrifying. 

While the likelihood of anyone finding a client that has the appropriate values that would lead to a screeching-at-people-from-the-top-of-buildings brand experience is pretty slim, at the very least let’s aim for something as riveting as a glowing dragon’s gullet, so that even if we fall short, we will have given real people something to talk about. 

Ben Middleton is chief creative officer at Creature
Picture credit: HBO

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