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25 June 2019

Ad Break - Game of Thrones.

by Jason Stone


According to The Guardian, 3.2 million people watched the final episode of Game of Thrones in the UK when it was broadcast at two o'clock in the morning. This is a remarkable demonstration of the hold that this programme had over its viewers… and, certainly a more edifying aspect of this devotion than the endless online whingeing from the same fans about plot developments they disliked as it approached its dénouement.

Game of Thrones has been a cultural phenomenon – it shifted the Zeitgeist - and its passing is a significant moment. This is in part due to it being one of those rare US programmes considered successful enough to end on its own terms, rather than being axed by a ruthless network.

Its final series was eagerly anticipated, and the very last programme was clearly a massive opportunity for advertisers keen to catch the attention of its devotees. Making it an obvious choice for the second of our examinations of ad breaks in context.

Sky Atlantic was launched on 1st February 2011… and - around ten weeks later - it broadcast the first episode of Game of Thrones. The success of the fantasy drama has been – to some extent – mirrored by Sky Atlantic's reputation for delivering valuable content from the United States, and it has delivered all of the channel's highest rated shows.

To celebrate this connection, Sky dusted off and updated a launch commercial from 1989 and ran it in the final and break of the final programme of the final series of Game of Thrones.

Featuring a Hyacinth Bucket-style hectoring housewife, the original commercial - made by Lowe Howard-Spink - offers a serious challenge to those who insist that the 1980s was such a golden era of British advertising that it was wall-to-wall genius.

By comparison, this campaign for a highly respected online service talks to the audience as though they are fucking idiots.


It doesn't really get going until it fast forwards through the history of Sky TV's contribution to popular culture. Thirty years of highlights squished into less than a minute stirs some meaningful memories. And as Game of Thrones has been with Sky Atlantic all the way, it's a timely acknowledgement of their role in the channel's reputation as a provider of the broadcaster's most talked about content.

After ninety seconds of nostalgia courtesy of Sky, we're offered the opportunity to see Uncommon Studios' postmodern commercial for Brewdog. The brand that said it would never advertise opted for a playful way to break its pledge, and – typically – the PR savvy Nils Leonard made the most of it.

He is, at least, consistent... when the Uncommon co-founder recorded a podcast with DAVID REVIEWS, he specifically drew attention to the lack of sophistication in the ad breaks during Game of Thrones. His company's parodic effort for Brewdog may be a jokey way of tackling this issue, but it's a start.

The third piece of work in this ad break is for Amazon and has the retailer positioning itself as a company unwilling to accept that it's 'the thought that counts' because a shite gift is a shite gift. Even so, any sense that they don't support the romance of a carefully selected present is quickly dispelled. The company's best advertising is for their TV streaming service, and this is pretty pedestrian compared with the films in that campaign.

The collective strop thrown by the advertising industry when Audi announced their intention to review their UK account wasn't anyone's finest moment. If ever there was a time for quiet dignity, this was it. That's not to say that BBH don't deserve to retain the account… they plainly do, but it's not an entitlement, and it's a mistake to suggest that it is. One of the marque's commercials appears in this compilation, and it says something about the high standards achieved by BBH for Audi that this impressive film is unlikely to be on anyone's list of the best ten Audi ads.

The Trip Advisor owl is a perfect illustration of Nils Leonard's point about the gulf in sophistication between programming and advertising. Whatever its faults – and in DAVID's opinion, there are many – Game of Thrones always gave its audience the benefit of the doubt… it never patronised, and it never pulled its punches.

By comparison, this campaign for a highly respected online service talks to the audience as though they are fucking idiots. The imagery is bad enough – and it is bad, really bad – but it's the voiceover that kills you. It possesses the earnestness of a primary school teacher reassuring parents that all the boys and girls will win prizes on sports day. It makes you want to commit an act of such unspeakable cruelty to the feather-headed fucker that Chris Packham sets up a vigil outside your house in memory of it.

A little blast from Mozart's Requiem accompanies a tussle in a hallway in a smart piece of advertising for Domino's Pizza. Their 'Official Food of…' campaign has an easy charm, and frequently offers a timely reminder to those in need of sustenance that there is an appealingly lazy option available to them.

The collective strop thrown by the advertising industry when Audi announced their intention to review their UK account wasn't anyone's finest moment.


The trailer for 'John Wick 3' which follows which is also astutely judged. It may well provide the answer on the lips of many a Game of Thrones fan: what on earth are we going to watch next? It seems exactly the kind of thing that might appeal to them, in the exact same way as it seems unlikely to appeal to DAVID.

Finally, this marathon ad break draws to a conclusion with a minute long US commercial for Beats headphones. The company is releasing a new product designed to appeal to the most active among us. There is a danger that we've now seen so many impressive sports montage commercials that were ceasing to be impressed by them any more, and the involvement of so many of the usual suspects makes them blur into one… but, that shouldn't blind us to how brilliantly they are put together. In this particular commercial, the way the camera stays centred on the headphones themselves gives it a real edge and – importantly – might even make you want to try the advertised headphones. And, lest we forget, that's still the name of the game.

Game of Thrones is destined to haunt Sky Atlantic's schedules for many years to come, like a dragon and tits version of its Zeitgeist-dominating predecessor 'Friends'. It may have finished but it certainly hasn't ended… providing an eternity of comfort to its many fans and a similar level of annoyance to its many detractors.

David Reviews is hand-crafted by Lovely Lenzie Ltd, 7 Seven Sisters, Lenzie, Glasgow, G66 3AW. Editor: Jason Stone. Phone: 0141 776 7766. E-mail: jason@davidreviews.com.