Variety and TikTok joined forces to host the second-ever Variety x TikTok Culture Catalysts Dinner on Nov. 17. The in-person banquet was held at at KYU NYC in New York, and the evening’s panels focused on the popular short-form video platform being used for marketing efforts by film, television and even retail advertisers.
The first panel featured four leaders who spoke to TikTok’s significance throughout the “House of the Dragon” advertising campaign: Michael Hagos, senior director of creative marketing for HBO Originals; Bill Leopold, director of editorial strategy and production at HBO/HBO Max; Kinney Edwards, global head of TikTok’s creative lab; and “Fantastic” Frankey Smith, a media personality content creator who is currently working in partnership with HBO Max.
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“It’s one of the biggest campaigns we’ve ever done,” Hagos said. “Everyone was working around the clock for months.”
An official TikTok account for “Game of Thrones” was created in April 2021 in honor of the series’ “Iron Anniversary,” which marked 10 years since the show premiered. But as the August 2022 debut of the spin-off “House of the Dragon” series approached, Hagos explained the account was co-branded to encompass the full breadth of the “Game of Thrones” fandom.
“I think what was so great about the ‘House of the Dragon’ marketing was… it was so personal, and it gave us something to react over,” Smith said. “But beyond that, we can now have conversations via TikTok through the stitch feature, through the duet feature, and now we can react to the things that we’re seeing that ‘House of the Dragon’ is sharing with us.”
Monday mornings are ritualistic for diehard “House of the Dragon” fans, who publicly take to social media with discourse on the latest episode that was released the night before. Post-credit scenes in particular are always a hot-button topic of conversation on the Internet, Smith said, which she praised “House of the Dragon” creators for facilitating through clever Easter eggs that leave room for fans to guess what will happen next.
Viewership and conversation surrounding the series are also driven by light-hearted content featuring recurring cast members, such as one comedic clip of Emma D’Arcy (who plays Princess Rhaenrya Targaryen) disclosing that their favorite drink is a Negroni Sbagliato with Prosecco. The video, which was posted to the official HBO Max TikTok account, has received over 2.1 million likes, over 12,000 comments and almost 130,000 shares since Oct. 1.
I’ll take one of each. #houseofthedragon
♬ a negroni sbagliato w prosecco l hbo max – hbomax
“It’s about that conversation that’s happening in the comments and the way that you’re able to respond and foster deeper dives into those opinions,” Edwards said, explaining how content creators can effectively utilize TikTok to gain traction.
The final panel at the Variety x TikTok Culture Catalysts Dinner was a deep-dive into the making of the “Mexican Pizza: The Musical” with Nicole Weltman, head of social at Taco Bell, Broadway star JJ Niemann and TikTok influencer Rema Vasan, who is head of the company’s North America business marketing.
Weltman discussed how the idea for the commercial was completely fueled by a TikTok creator who stitched a video of Doja Cat rapping about Mexican Pizza with the caption, “POV: you walk into the rehearsal of Taco Bell: The Musical.”
“As a brand, we let the community drive,” Weltman said. “We let our fans and their passion for our brand drive.”
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