Opinion, Student/PR

One Misplaced Coffee Cup And Billions Of £’s Of Publicity

If you haven’t been watching or following Game Of Thrones these past few weeks, then where have you been at? According to CNN, the final episode brought in a series record of 19.3 million viewers. Interestingly enough, 19.3 million of those live viewers were also exposed to some very subtle, ‘accidental’ advertising.

Whether they knew about it or not.

How An Accident Returned $2 Billion, And The Questions Around It

Shortly following the infamous ‘misplaced coffee cup’ debacle a few episodes ago came another incident. This time, sharp-eyed watchers spotted a water bottle between Samwell Tarley’s legs in one of the final scenes. Passionate fans have now branded the show a joke after the gaffe, but that didn’t alter the enormous impact ‘coffee-gate’ and ‘water-gate’ has had on AVE for certain brands.

Because monarchy debates are thirsty work.

Despite being erroneously identified as belonging to the Starbucks brand, the coffee cup that was mistakenly left in a shot that saw multiple characters celebrating at Winterfell has since earned the brand a staggering $2 billion in so-called ‘free publicity’, according to the Business Insider.

Regrettably, I’m sure, no brand has since been associated with the water bottle that appeared in the season finale a few days ago. A missed opportunity for the likes of Fiji, Evian etc. who I’m sure wouldn’t have argued with having their brand broadcasted to almost 20 million live viewers (and that’s not to mention those who tuned in on catch up, or those who have watched it 2740248 times over like me).

There’s a lot of questions to be asked around these incidents, and not all of them I can answer. But for those that I can place an opinion on, I have.

HOW Did A TV Show Have Such An Influence?

I think this is another question that people would be asking: “it’s just a TV show, how did it manage to generate such a stir for the associated brands?’ well, let me just tell you a little about Game Of Thrones.

If you don’t watch it, you’re missing out. Period.

Millions of people (myself included) religiously watch the show – hey there’s even counselling for those affected by the show finishing – therefore any brand that’s broadcast to this devote audience, especially in such a loud and controversial way, is likely to have an impact on them. Not to mention the press coverage thereafter. Most PRs executing media relations efforts work tirelessly to get their brands mentioned in publications, Starbucks had to sit back and do nothing in order for their brand to be promoted to god-only-knows how many people. You can’t even argue it was bad publicity for them, as they did nothing wrong here.

Did Starbucks REALLY Make $2 Billion?

I’m sure those who aren’t acquainted with AVE will wonder where a figure as large as ‘$2 billion’ was plucked from.

A marketers dream in one frame.

AVE stands for Advertising Value Equivalent, and a good chunk of us working in PR hate it. Clients love it as it gives them a Return On Investment figure, but we don’t believe it places enough value in the work that we do. Nevertheless, the way in which this figure would have been worked out would have been somebody calculating the number of people that were likely to have interacted with the ‘brand’ (which ironically, wasn’t even Starbucks) and put a figure to how much that would have cost the coffee chain in paid advertising spend. So to answer the question, no they wouldn’t have been handed $2 billion cash, but the widespread media coverage – not to mention being associated to a shot that was broadcast to millions of people – would be of inarguable tremendous value to their brand.

Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 14.42.43.png
And they’ve quite rightly capitalised on it too.

Even the likes of game developers have jumped on the Hype. Mashable reported that Skyrim has introduced a mod that allows you to replace tankards with the notorious coffee cup after a user request. Adding to the revenue pool that Starbucks are wading through right now. I bet their marketing team can’t believe their luck.

Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 14.40.40
I mean, 9 words for 79k impressions. You can’t argue with that.

Was It Worth It For Game Of Thrones Too?

But was the publicity worth it for Game Of Thrones too? This, I can confidently answer: absolutely not. As Rich Leigh, in his book ‘Myths Of PR’ that I’m currently reading, frequently states – not all publicity is good publicity. 

At least they can laugh about it, though.

Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 14.42.23.png
Keeping cool but *crying inside.*

The show – if you’re a fan, you’ll know – has been slammed beyond ends for it’s ‘poor writing’ and ‘rushed conclusion’. Whether you agree with the critics or not, the one thing that I’m sure is agreeable by all is that isn’t the kind of exposure that anybody wants. Game Of Thrones is one of those rare brands that doesn’t need much promotion to succeed. It’s earned its popularity by reputation and to be honest, they didn’t need any more visibility than what they already had. Publications love to talk about the show in every way humanly possible, and word of mouth alone is enough to promote it. That’s why I’d fiercely argue that this was not a mistake they intended on purpose. It was never going to generate any positive kind of attention for them. I would maintain that coffee-gate and water-gate were both complete accidents. That, or Starbucks paid them one hell of a bribe.

What do you think? Let me know below, or on Twitter where I’m always up for a chat.



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