'Second screen' advertising targets 'Game of Thrones' fans.

Author:Lowrey, Annie

Byline: Annie Lowrey

In recent episodes of "Game of Thrones,'' viewers have seen scenes of theft, rape, infanticide, cannibalism, beheading, crucifixion, castration, incest, murder and dismemberment.

While taking all this in, perhaps they would like to think of a favorite snack, beer or cleaning product, too?

The popular HBO series about a bloody civil war in a mythical feudal land reaches a coveted demographic of younger, wealthier viewers. But with no televised advertisements during the show, companies are trying to reach viewers through their smartphones, tablets and laptops with Twitter and Facebook posts.

This is "second-screen advertising,'' a rapidly flourishing marketing trend. More than 80 percent of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices while watching television, according to Nielsen. And in trying to reach these multitasking viewers who keep one eye on the show and the other on social media, advertisers are making up the rules as they go.

"Brands are asking themselves, How do I make myself relevant to the first-screen content?'' said Joline McGoldrick, research director at Millward Brown Digital. "This is completely nascent behavior, so brands are figuring out what is effective.''

When it comes to "Game of Thrones,'' the show's roughly 14 million viewers have proved irresistible to consumer companies -- but the program's deathly serious subject matter has posed a challenge for advertising teams.

Take one Twitter post by Bud Light: "Arriving late to a party might work for Arya, but not for bandwagon fans,'' it said, referring both to the series' johnny-come-lately viewers and to a child who arrives at a castle just after the massacre of her family.

Perhaps by adding levity to the show's grave content, humor has tended to generate better responses on Twitter and Facebook, the two biggest platforms for second-screen ads. Many posts have punned on popular refrains from the show. References to dragons and death abound.

The American Museum of Natural History put out a promotion for a new dinosaur exhibit with the tagline "The night is dark and full of pterosaurs,'' a...

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