Game of Thrones is Transmedia Gold

Tyrion Lannister:  Little Man, Big Plans

(via Frank Rose)

Unless you’ve been hiding out on the moon or under a very large , heavy object for some time, you might have well heard of the big chunk of fantastical fun that is HBO’s Game of Thrones series. Behold, those in the know: the fun hasn’t stopped with the book series turned television series– ho ho, NO — as Campfire NYC has deftly wielded its mighty storytelling skills to transcend the traditional with a transmedia campaign at the core of its marketing push.

Marketing agency Campfire gave Steve Coulson and their resident band of brainiac’s the mission of creating a transmedia campaign for HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones. Brilliant move, pulling in audiences old and new to the series, its stories and characters all the while providing deep, immersive experiences to those keen to play along. Here’s a great breakdown of what transpired, henceforth;

Author George R.R. Martin’s sprawling fantasy series, A Song of Fire and Ice, had proven a success of fantastic proportions already, making Coulson and the Campfire crew’s jobs all that much challenging; How to generate buzz for the series, introduce deeper engagement for the pre-existing fan base, and introduce the sprawling story and host of characters to a new audience? A massive endeavor, indeed. In my humble opinion, they’ve done a fantastic job.

Enter Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion and chief conspirator at Frank has a great post up on, from which he shares his considerably insightful perspective on what all went into the campaign. Franks ]got the low down on the campaign while attending Coulson’s recent presentation at NYC’s Transmedia Meetup.  The rest of us?  Wishing we were there too, surely.

What’s of great interest to me is Frank’s focus on the lessons learned;  ‘What worked/ What didn’t work’ aspects of the campaign. Here follows a few highlights culled from Frank Rose’s article– the rest I highly suggest you peruse on his site, His is a brilliant case study of a well conceived transmedia campaign.

As promised, a few tidbits to send you on your way;

Initially, the focus of the campaign was reportedly to be on the families populating the kingdoms of Westeros, and all the intrigue that came with them. But alas, that changed. So Franks sets things straight for us–

Frank Rose: “Eventually they decided to focus not on the families but on the mythical kingdom the families were vying to control—a decision Coulson described as moving them from storytelling to world-building. To evoke this world, they hit upon the idea of appealing to the five senses—smell, sound, sight, touch, and taste.   (Me: How cool is that?)

Using the senses, they could conjure up a memory of a place people had never actually been to. So they decided to introduce a new sense each week. But this led to other problems, starting with how to convey scent on the Internet. The couldn’t, of course. Instead, they turned to a real-world experience: They would make up scent boxes promising, as HBO put it in an accompanying letter, “an immersive experience of the land of Westeros,” where Game of Thrones is set. The boxes would go to a small number of influencers—bloggers, reporters, George Martin fans, and the like. “Open the boxes and there’s a whole world inside,” Coulson told us—parchments, glass vials, and six different scents with instructions on how to combine them. “Mix them together and you’d get the smells of Westeros.”

Lesson #1: In an increasingly digital world, physical objects surprise and delight.

Lesson #2: Think like a forger. 

“For sound, the Campfire team went back to the Web, creating a binaural soundscape of the Inn at the Crossroads, a popular gathering spot for the common folk of Westeros. You reached it through The Maester’s Path, a site set up to engage hardcore fans by introducing a puzzle element to each of the five sensory experiences. Listening to the soundscape in the inn, for example, you could overhear various conversations.  Embedded within them were clues that would enable you to solve the sound puzzle. ”

In transmedia, is it Touchie, or Feelie?

“And then there was touch. The touch element, Coulson said, “started to unlock for us when we thought of ‘feel’ rather than ‘touch.’ How do things feel to you?” That led to the idea of creating a mobile app that would describe the weather where you are in terms of the weather on some part of Westeros. “A climate-driven storytelling experience,” Coulson called it.

Lesson #3:  If you define an experience as a story, you will find the story in the experience. ———-
“Of course, just because you’re telling a story doesn’t mean you’re in control of it—especially if what you’re really trying to do is set out building blocks and let the audience tell the story. This became apparent early on, when Winter is Coming, a fan blog that sprang up around the time HBO green-lit the pilot episode for the series, received a scent box. Not content with mixing scents and reading scrolls, the Winter is Coming blogger went searching for hidden clues. After hours of searching, he found what appeared to be some very faint lettering on the back of a map of Westeros that had come in the box. He couldn’t make out what it said, so he posted it on the site—where it was seen by a reader who ran it through some Photoshop filters and reported that it read,  ALWAYS SUPPORT THE BOTTOM….

Lesson #4:   Always support the bottom. 

“The great thing about “Always Support the Bottom,” aside from its serendipitous discovery, is that it was subject to any number of different interpretations. “‘Supporting the bottom, has come to denote anyone who does something to assist the fandom (getting set photos, asking Martin a burning question at a book signing, etc.). “No community is too small to take note of,” Coulson declared at last week’s meetup. “You want to make sure they know you’re listening.”

Cool stuff, indeed.  Drop some thoughts and commentary at the bottom– Excelsior!


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