'Game Of Thrones' Had A Modern-Day Visitor: Starbucks

You want some better-than-average viewer engagement? Maybe you should consider some accidental product placement.

Apparently, that Starbucks cup appearing in the fourth episode of this season’s “Game of Thrones” doesn’t make sense in a medieval drama full of war, death and romance.

C’mon! Who doesn’t need a little nitro cold brew to amp up the sword work?

HBO wasn't amused; it digitally removed the logo-emblazed cup sitting on the table. (Now, if HBO got some sort of placement fee after the fact from Starbucks, that might be a different story.)

Who knows? Maybe the origins of the premium coffee/espresso/latte culture go back several hundred years. Feast scenes in any medieval story line are wild affairs. One can’t always tell what is real and what is a hallucination.

One marketing executive said the production slip meant good news for Starbucks -- like $2.3 billion in free marketing, especially including thousands of social-media interactions connected with the flub. Call it Unearned Media, perhaps.



Branded entertainment/product placement executives will go to great lengths to integrate products/services into a show, while considering many factors -- story context, character inclination, and, yes, even what century in U.S. civilization. Several hundred years ago, future-thinking marketing executives were in short supply.

Two days ago, HBO offers an explainer, with a comedy rift:

“News from Winterfell. The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. #Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea.”

Ah, yes. No mention of Starbucks in that tweet. Well, HBO is an ad-free premium cable TV network. This isn’t to say shows on HBO don’t have real-life products.

Carrie Bradshaw’s character in  “Sex in the City” always wrote her pieces on a clearly displayed Apple MacBook. Manolo Blanik shoes got weekly shout-outs. More recently, another deal appears in HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” where the tech-focused publisher TechCrunch’s name shows up on computer screens in the show.

Networks need not worry about ill-fitting branded entertainment. Research shows they are greeted with a shrug of the shoulders by TV consumers. But when offering an illogical mistake -- like a coffee brand showing up the year 1150? Big-time notice and brand retention!

Still, don’t expect any forthcoming “Thrones” boozy episodes, where feasts are highly excitable affairs sporting Bud Lights on the table. Then again, one needs to stay trim and relaxed before and after all those battles between warring families.

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