Julia Deutsch
Julia Deutsch 9 July 2015
Categories Content, Social Media

Digital Marketing: Game of Thrones Vs Mad Men

Which TV show triumphs in the digital marketing wars?

Game of Thrones and Mad Men, two television shows which have dominated the media for almost a decade. Iconic drama series, which if you haven’t watched at least one episode, where have you been hiding?


Looking at their cultural impact and digital marketing, the questions arise; how have these two shows been so successful? Is it more than just a great storyline, script, characters and actors?

TV Marketing Strategies In 2015

For a TV series to be successful on a global scale in 2015, the digital marketing campaign needs to be incredibly well planned, perfectly positioned and slick.

The days of advertising a TV programme in merely the weeks beforehand and then relying on it being purely ‘popular’ to be a success are well and truly in the past. Shows today are marketed as soon as the concept is born; the rest is down to a fantastic marketing strategy and a passion for longevity.


Game Of Thones And Mad Men; The Creation Of Two Phenomenon

Game of Thrones was first aired in the U.S. in 2011, while Mad Men burst into our lives in 2007. Created by American and Canadian entertainment giants respectively, they are very different in genre, yet both have captured the imagination of the viewing public.

With Game of Thrones and the fantasy ensemble cast interweaving the tale of civil war, dynasties and their battles to reclaim a throne and, of course, the inevitability of ‘winter coming’ with the creatures that accompany it, there can be no other extreme to the 1960s lives of the advertising gurus who live, love and work for their New York bosses at Sterling Cooper & Partners.

Both though have become water cooler topics of conversation and the digital marketing strategies employed have played a large part in their success.

Social Media

The use of social media has been the focal point of the digital marketing campaigns for both shows. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram…you name it and a social media platform has been used to push out promotions, teaser trailers and more to the eager public.

Game of Thrones: Reaching The Superfan Through Social Media

Game of Thrones campaigns have played all the best cards when it comes to spanning the breadth of social media. They have a presence on:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • A dedicated trailer channel
  • Programme website
  • Tumblr

Mad Men: Reflecting the Retro Era of the First Decade of Mass Advertising

Mad Men has naturally gathered a massive following with their social platform use to gain fans and to keep them on the edges of their seats through a more sparse social media presence:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Google+


Maintaining Audience Following Through Social Networking

The promotion of a new series (or season for those in America) through trailers, behind the scenes features, real life media scenarios such as magazine pieces and red carpet interviews, are just a few of the angles of marketing employed to maintain and create audience interest.

For Game of Thrones, the advantage lies with user generated content as fans can become truly immersed in the GoT world. Fantasy fans are more likely to dress up in costume and post photos, respond to what’s occuring in the show, ask questions (as fantasy shows can be somewhat confusing), pose trivia questions and more; fantastic marketing which doesn’t require management.

A further use of the costume angle of the show is that on Instagram, many users have re-created scenes with the official merchandise figurines and shared the results using show-specific hashtags. Additionally, the cast of GoT appear to be more social media savvy; constantly using their platforms to promote the show – from posting photos from the red carpet to the cast hanging out on location – this type of transparency assists in maintaining audience’s attention during the “winter” (the months between a series ending and the next beginning.)

For Mad Men, social media has been a major player but not utilised to the same extent as Game of Thrones. Yes, the show’s social media presence increased hugely in the days before the new season but the target market were less likely to use certain social media platforms, as Instagram and SnapChat weren’t prevalent or did not exist when Mad Men first premiered.


Additionally, Mad Men has had to compete with zombie-killing, meth-making, orange jumpsuit-wearing shows that are easier to translate to social media as the show content, although subtle, is more geared towards ‘big’ moments with action, big laughs and sex.

However, as Mad Men is set in the golden age of 1960s advertising, the show’s digital marketing truly went back to basics. Online the retro theme of the show came through with product placements that allowed us to reminisce, promotional posters that aren’t graphically designed but turn back time to commissioned pieces of work and advertising campaigns. Also, Man Men instead invested heavily in traditional adverts and media buys on TV.


The series six promotional poster used in print and online for Mad Men is an original work by Brian Sanders. The creators of the show understood that harkening back to the era of the day would allow Mad Men to stand out, while still realising that pushing the imagery online was necessary in the digital world that we currently live in.

Game Of Thrones: A Global Following

With over 2.5million Twitter followers and almost 16million likes on Facebook, Game of Thrones truly has a global following.

A couple of decisions, which haven’t weakened their presence but could have been utilised more included:

  • The closing of their Google+ account
  • Their use of hashtags on Twitter is slightly disorganised (Using specific hashtags for particular marketing campaign is understandable. However, the overall spread of tags, including higher level ones, dilute the hashtag impact.)

Whilst Game of Thrones still has the opportunity to move to new platforms, such as Pinterest due to the visual aspect of the costumes, the main website could perhaps benefit from an overhaul. It’s split into a number of domains with the main URL being a little more than a portal to other sites.


Game of Thrones has benefited from the expansion of the fantasy world and fans have become part of the journey to the end game; more worlds are revealed, different characters are introduced and more favourites are killed off, which when seen as a sum of the parts, results in an incredibly successful show driven by a focused digital campaign.


Ahead of the Series 5 premier, Game of Thrones was incredibly smart with one digital marketing campaign in particular.

Beginning in December, tweets on the Game of Thrones Twitter page directed fans to a site titled, In the TV show, the characters Jojen Reed and Brandon Stark are able to envision dream-like premonitions of the future mixed with visions of the past. This ability was introduced to the characters by the three-eyed raven.

However, what would fans see when they signed up to raven website? A trailer? Snippets from the new series? Behind-the-scenes videos from the set? Instead, followers received short videos that contained old and new footage from the show. The short videos were sent via text message and, once watched, disappeared roughly 90 seconds after being watched. In a way this allowed GoT fans to experience what these dream-like visions are like, as you can’t pause, rewind or fast forward a dream.


And The Winner Is?

As for a winner? With Game of Thrones continuing on our screens, the response by many would be that the fantasy series is victorious due to the continuing production of the show and the many more opportunities for great digital marketing and campaigns. However, with calls for a Mad Men movie gathering pace, the confirmation would trigger a whole new digital marketing campaign – let the digital marketing fight continue!

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