Digital Marketing

What Marketers Can Learn From The OSN+ Campaign To Promote “House Of The Dragon”

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“Dragons are coming.” Appearing seemingly overnight on the Egyptian coastal town of El Alamein, the tag line was enough to create a significant level of intrigue in the lead up to the launch of one of the most highly anticipated television series in the world: HBO’s House of the Dragon.


Alongside a 1,000-drone activation in Riyadh, a digital media campaign in AlUla, and an immersive screening in Dubai, the team at UAE-based streaming platform OSN+ engaged in a fully comprehensive campaign that resulted in the platform’s most successful premiere to date. Following a tightly scheduled marketing campaign that captured the attention of the region, the OSN+ marketing team utilized traditional channels and branding, layered with newer tactical strategies that were more disruptive. This was combined with wide-ranging elements of public relations (PR), social media, radio, and creative to establish a fully holistic campaign that sought to generate interest and increase subscriber numbers in what is fast becoming an extremely competitive and saturated industry.

“OSN+ had a big task of bringing this all together, through working directly with HBO on approvals and creatives, to creating a 360-strategy involving social media and PR, and essentially getting four different activations together in a timeframe of one month,” says Ashley Rite, VP of Marketing and Growth at OSN+. “It was a huge opportunity for us as well, considering the success of its predecessor, Game of Thrones, which at the time of the finale had been OSN’s most successful episode premiere so far. So, we definitely had to go big for this one.” With that thought in mind, the OSN+ team, through a phased campaign, planned around reigniting interest of Game of Thrones fans, while engaging with a new audience, building momentum through trailer releases and teasers to generate excitement, and then successfully sustaining this momentum through continued buzz after launch.

A huge component of the campaign’s success was its focus on events and activations, most of which took place in August ahead of the official launch of the series on the 22nd of the same month, engaging not only media and influencers, but fans across the region by bringing inclusivity, community, and -of course- a sense of fear of missing out (FOMO) through the campaign. The activations were also carefully curated based on insights and trends in each market at that time of year, where it was not only important to find suitable locations, but also crucial to collaborate with the right partners, like Gamers8 in the case of Riyadh, as well as a strong influencer strategy for amplification in all markets.

House of the Dragon celebration in Riyadh / Image courtesy: OSN+

For the screening event, the team chose to steer away from a traditional cinema setting and instead looked to creative spaces, like the Theatre of Digital Art in Dubai, to create an immersive experience and bring an Instagramable concept to life. In fact, technology played a significant role in this campaign, beginning with the unique augmented reality invitations that created a buzz with media and influencers, while using a sharable piece of content that would draw likes, mentions, and shares on social media. A dragon egg appeared to break, revealing a scroll with the official invitation pulled from within. Influencers loved it.

A multisensory experience with a digital and audio takeover of the 82 screens at Riyadh Boulevard City later lit up the sky at the Gamers8 Festival for an eight-minute activation that included 1,000 drones soaring across the sky, successfully drawing in crowds and coverage across Saudi Arabia. Timing proved everything here. It was the right day– a Thursday evening at the beginning of the weekend in the Kingdom, during a popular festival with 40,000 in footfall on the day.

One observation here was that the activation itself could have benefited from a shorter run time as attention spans have shortened, and snappier visual content is proving more appealing to audiences across different segments. Timing was also important when planning the campaign in general, as the summer period means a quieter media landscape, due to the hotter climate and summer breaks, posing one of the larger challenges. The solution was to drive a content-led campaign with video at its heart.

Related: Three Ways To Go Big On Your Marketing (Even With A Small Budget)

House of the Dragon celebration in Riyadh / Image courtesy: OSN+

The aim was to disrupt the media landscape, which can be challenging in a cluttered marketplace. The team had to rely heavily on visuals and artworks that were not always usable for OSN+’s markets; plus, making the content feel relevant specifically for an Arab audience was key. One way this was done was by partnering with media company Vice Arabia to create content that regional audiences could relate to in their own language. As the new series lacked fan attachment to the characters, the team had to create a strong emotional connection with familiar aspects of the series franchise- think dragons, the symbols of the House Targaryen in House of the Dragon, and of course, the big task of bringing itself.

Video proved king. The digital campaign in AlUla, which included premium videos with dragons seemingly appearing in the desert, helped OSN+ capture nearly 13 million views across all its platforms, including Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, alongside an expansive influencer campaign across the region- YouTube saw nine million views for one video alone. We also added some unique above-the-line marketing locations throughout UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait to ensure the awareness factor across these key markets. And the campaign continues through the run of the season, with further activations both digital and on the ground, making sure to keep the intrigue and FOMO coming, and retaining those loyal viewers in the process.

During the launch, app downloads increased by triple, landing OSN+ at number one in app stores in UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other GGC markets for a few consecutive days.

So, what are the key lessons marketers can take away from all of this? Here’s a primer:

1/ Go digital-first, but remember, traditional advertising is the OG

OSN+ digital campaigns helped bring in a lot of mentions, likes, and shares, but traditional advertising, like out-of-home, still added value and stretched the campaign’s reach to the streets of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE.

2/ Physical events aren’t going anywhere

People still love meeting face-to-face. It’s a great way to start fruitful conversations, network, and create press and interview opportunities on the spot. Plus, influencers can capture live content to add hype to a product as it’s happening. A creative concept (think immersive experiences, activations, and giveaways) can also help draw in crowds and keep people engaged.

Related: How Dubai’s Events Sector Is Reimagining The Industry After Being Hit Hard By The COVID-19 Crisis

Image still from HBO’s House of the Dragon

3/ TikTok is a force to be reckoned with

This social platform is on the rise as a credible player in the marketing landscape, proving to be one of the best ways to start conversations and reach wider audiences. In fact, TikTok is even rivalling Twitter with how fast information is shared on the platform. It is also great to use when trying to reach a younger audience, and it is a must to include in any marketing campaign, big or small.

4/ Did I mention video is king?

As attention spans shrink and audiences are bombarded with information, having a video strategy is hugely significant to any campaign. Short and snappy is always the way to go– make anything longer than a minute, and you’ve lost them. That’s also why TikTok is rising in the ranks of the social media game.

5/ Don’t stop with the start

Coming out with a bang is great, but a plan must be put in place ahead of any launch to keep the momentum going. Through a long-term social media strategy, continued media partnerships, and ongoing press and influencer outreach, you can make sure that audiences continue to engage in your product and brand far beyond the initial release.

Of course, we can’t deny that a generous marketing budget helped bring many of these campaign elements to life. But taking smart risks while allowing your team to get creative is, however, essential when trying to produce something memorable. A tight deadline helps too.

Related: Four Tips For Marketing Your Tech Brand To Content Creators

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