Hotstar's Game of Thrones promos, 'Torrents Morghulis', create buzz

By Anirban Roy Choudhury , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | July 26, 2017
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We spoke to Sidharth Shakdher, head of acquisition and brand development, Hotstar, about the campaign that attempts to bring Game of Thrones fans onto the VOD platform.

'Winter is here.'

These three seemingly regular words bear special meaning for a Game of Thrones (GOT) loyalist; it's what a character called Sansa said to another one called Jon in the final episode of Season 6. In a bid to bring fans of the show onto its video-on-demand (VOD) platform, Hotstar, for Season 7, Star network has rolled out a multimedia campaign.

Titled 'Torrents Morghulis', which means 'torrents must die', in Game of Thrones tongue (the campaign title is a pun on the phrase 'Valar Morghulis' or 'all men must die'), the ads highlight the downside of watching the show through torrents and illegal streaming sites.

And torrents are what impatient fans of the show have infamously been resorting to, because in the early days of the show (the drama first began in 2011), the episodes (censored versions) would reach TV screens in India months after their US release.

The first episode of Season 7 went live on Hotstar Premium on July 17; every Monday at 7:30 am, a new episode is made available on the subscription-led section of the platform (at Rs.199 per month).

Torrent addicts have, collectively, been in a quandary since last year, because 'torrentz', the largest torrent search engine, was rendered defunct.

Star India's VOD platform, Hotstar, now streams the series (uncensored version) within a few hours of the US TV premier.

The 'Torrents Morghulis' campaign comprises three TVCs and 50 billboards across Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. "Though this may not be a large number per se, we have targeted specific locations and used OOH as an 'impact medium' to fuel the conversations around the campaign," Sidharth Shakdher, head of acquisition and brand development, Hotstar, tells afaqs!.

The campaign was created internally by Hotstar's marketing and creative communication teams. A production house called 'Dukaan' was roped in to produce the films.

"The films are running on select channels within the Star network as well as on channels outside the network that reach audiences with premium English content affinity," Shakdher says, adding, "We have used digital platforms in a targeted manner."

"Print media has not been utilised for the 'Torrents Morghulis' campaign," he clarifies.

Recall that very recently, Hotstar's rival, Amazon Prime Video, a subscription-driven VOD platform, used print (ads in the Times of India) to promote a show called 'Inside EDGE'.

"In terms of spends, share of voice or the number of activations, this may not have been our most aggressive, non-sporting marketing deployment. But in terms of messaging, this has probably been our boldest statement yet," Shakdher says.

The campaign, he tells us, is "a direct outcome of consumer closeness as well as consumer research."

Explaining the insight, he says, "Indian audiences are increasingly desirous of consuming the world's best stories at the same time as anyone else, unspoiled and without ads or interruptions. "With Hotstar, we have a platform that strives to reduce the time gap between India and the west by bringing Premium content minutes after it is aired​ in its home territory​. In fact, Hotstar Premium is the only bonafide ​online​ service that has brought Game of Thrones to India," he says.

The campaign is designed to reward loyalists of the show, as is evident in the copy; for example, 'Putin' and 'Broski' are references that only those familiar with the show will understand.

"Even beyond the loyalists, we are equally enthused about getting first-time Game of Thrones viewers to experience this show, unspoiled, ad-free and minutes after America," says Shakdher.

Promo Review

Gopa Kumar, VP, Isobar India, a digital agency, from the stable of Dentsu Aegis Network, says, "I think the campaign does reach out to the hardcore GOT loyalist and also reaches out to an extended audience - people who may have heard of GOT from their friends who are hardcore followers of the show. The campaign is a bold way to condone the behaviour of illegal downloading of the show through torrents; GOT is the highest illegally downloaded content in the world."

He goes on, "The campaign also works because of its humorous tone; it deals lightly with the trouble people put themselves through to find and download illegal content... the communication also pushes in key USPs - ad-free, no pop-ups, English subtitles. These are all important to any discerning viewer today. The communication is not preachy, the way most anti-piracy messages tend to be."

Gopa Kumar Gopa Kumar

Varun Duggirala Varun Duggirala

Unlike ads for tangible products, these ads promote a show on an OTT (Over The Top) platform. Do the same rules of branding apply or are there any 'dos and don'ts' creative teams would do well to bear in mind while crafting ads for VOD shows?

Isobar's Kumar opines, "I do believe that the same thumb rules for branding apply... the communication should be simple and relatable, and the storytelling should drive home the benefit... all the more in this case because one is talking to a highly evolved, digital-first target group. Any communication will have to work hard to cut through - something this campaign does at all levels."

"Spot on," says Varun Duggirala, co-founder / left brain at The Glitch,a creative agency. He adds, "For a show that gets so heavily pirated because the fans can't control their FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), this. And it's got an interestingly weird sense of humour which also appeals to the TG that the show focuses on. So I'd say great job on that front."

He adds, "I think the core basics of why these films are made never change. It's about getting the messaging through in the most entertaining yet insightful format. So it's not really about do's and don'ts because all products (old school or new age) need to reinvent the way they connect to the always connected user of today."

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