Exclusive: House of the Dragon Trailers Set Record at Max, Fire Up Season 2 Marketing

HBO's dueling trailers scored 80 million global video views in the first 72 hours

House of the Dragon is igniting its fanbase ahead of Season 2 and setting records at Max.

To kick off the Season 2 marketing campaign for the Game of Thrones prequel series, HBO and Max released dueling House of the Dragon trailers on March 21. The Green trailer showcases Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and her supporters, “The Greens” (named for the colors of House Hightower), and the Black trailer features Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and her supporters, “The Blacks” (named for the red and black colors of House Targaryen).

With the dueling trailers and a tagline stating, “All Must Choose,” HBO was looking to make fans active participants in House of the Dragon’s marketing ahead of Season 2’s June 16 release, letting viewers show support for their respective side through views, shares and hashtags. And the move paid off.

HBO and Max exclusively told ADWEEK that the trailers scored more than 80 million global video views in the first 72 hours, setting a record for the best-performing trailer for any original series since the streaming platform (formerly HBO Max) launched in 2020. Additionally, the marketing stunt resulted in the most-talked-about trailers since the platform’s premiere, with social conversation volume reaching more than 280,500 posts.

However, firing up a fandom isn’t easy.

“Creating one big trailer is work, but to do two at the same time was a bit of a risk,” Steven Cardwell, vp of originals marketing for HBO and Max, told ADWEEK. “You’re always worried: Is only one going to get shown? How are people going to know there are two? Are they going to cannibalize one another?”

Achieving House of the Dragon’s dueling trailers took months of planning, and for a VFX-heavy dragon show, finished shots are sometimes hard to come by weeks in advance.

Cardwell added, “When you’re working this far out, a lot of the conversation is about, ‘What can we show and what do we actually have?'”

In addition to logistical hurdles, Cardwell noted that—though the struggle between The Greens and The Blacks is a central part of the Targaryen civil war in George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood novel—the terms weren’t often mentioned in Season 1.

“It was really about how were we going to create a platform that would be accessible for more casual fans of the series or even newcomers, but also for book fans who were going to understand the vernacular of green and black,” Cardwell said. “It was definitely an idea from the books that we wanted to create an opportunity for fans to cosign.”

According to Cardwell, the goal was to present two sides of the story without judgment, with the trailers mirroring each other even down to the last lines.

“The allegiances might change, or people’s opinions might change over this series, and that was important to us,” Cardwell said. “We didn’t want to guide anyone or make anyone think one way or the other. We wanted to present both sides of the story, make an argument and let the fans choose.”

Though the marketing team worried one side would be favored, the trailers have come out fairly even in viewership. For instance, as of this article’s publishing time, the Black trailer has 10 million views on Max’s YouTube page, and the Green trailer has nearly 9 million.

Season 2’s marketing follows up a campaign for Season 1 that Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav called “the biggest campaign in HBO history.”

Season 1’s marketing happened at a unique time for the company, with the series launching just months after Discovery and WarnerMedia finalized a $43 billion merger. In addition, the campaign had the task of reaching the former Game of Thrones fanbase, including viewers who were disillusioned following the Season 8 finale.

“When we were looking at how we were going to launch the first season, we took into consideration that there was a very vocal, but ultimately a small faction, of the internet that had these feelings about Game of Thrones, but by and large there were still lots of fans out there that were very excited about House of the Dragon,” Cardwell said. “It was also at a time when we were coming into a new company, so as marketers, it was pretty exciting because we had all these levers to pull that we had never had before, the whole Warner Bros. Discovery ecosystem.”

The campaign involved numerous activations playing host to thousands of attendees, a dynamic AR app that lets fans raise dragons of their own, an official podcast that dives deeper into episodes and several cross-portfolio promotions, helping the series on its way to averaging nearly 30 million viewers per episode.

Storyline breadcrumbs are coming…

According to Cardwell, the Season 2 campaign will follow in Season 1’s footsteps and “take cues from the fandom.”

“We’re just so lucky to work on IP like this that’s so rich and nuanced and operates in this gray space where it’s not just white hats and black hats. It’s not Team Edward and Team Jacob,” Cardwell said. “It allows us to be creative and talk to fans in a way that’s authentic, and I think ultimately is a good mirror of the show itself.”

Moving forward, Cardwell said the HBO marketing team is “allergic” to spoilers, but fans can expect more “breadcrumbs” for the storylines ahead.

In addition, Cardwell said the marketing will continue involving the fanbase, with the dueling trailers, the black and green terminology and the “All Must Choose” line serving as the campaign’s foundation: “It’s a battle standard.”

“I’ve worked on this IP for a long time, and I’m always surprised by this level of fandom,” Cardwell said. “They are so incredible, and sometimes a creative spark is all you need to ignite the realm.”

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