Literally watching ice melt.
You often hear the old canard "all publicity is good publicity," and that’s true — if you don’t care about potential customers reinforcing negative stereotypes around your product.
What is the most damaging negative perception around HBO’s hit Game of Thrones (which, to be clear, I love) if you want people to keep watching it?
The perception that it drags on and on without much of importance changing; that many characters are traveling in circles; that it is "narratively bankrupt." That the author of the book series on which it is based, George RR Martin, is taking an Ice Age to finish his next tome; that neither he nor the showrunners have any clue how to wrap up this sprawling story in a satisfactory manner.
On Thursday, in a PR stunt designed to reveal the date of the beginning of season 7 this July, HBO put the date in a block of ice and invited fans to activate flamethrowers by commenting "FIRE" on Facebook Live. The fans would literally melt the ice to reveal the date.
A livestream of ice and fire! You can practically see TV marketing executives hopping around the whiteboard with delight at the idea. It must have seemed perfect for an age where millions will watch a watermelon being squeezed with elastic bands.
Well, turns out it takes longer than you might think to melt a giant block of ice with flamethrowers. Like, a lot longer. A hundred thousand of the hardest hardcore Game of Thrones fans watched the disappointing scene for more than an hour before the livestream broke. Over on snark central Twitter, fans were not shy about making their feelings known.
The livestream returned. You could now type "DRACARYS" for multiple flamethrowers, we were informed. Still, the ineffectual flames got no closer to licking the truth out of the ice. The flames were turned on full throttle: nothing. The livestream broke again. HBO announced the Season 7 launch date with a tweet.
So to recap, a show that some viewers think is dragging on too long, a show whose next season has already been delayed four months and reduced to seven episodes, just effectively trolled its most rabid fans by making them watch hours of ice melting.
And the whole thing finished with a whimper, not a bang — exactly what concerns people about the story. If you think you’ve invested 50 hours and counting for a tale that will be as ultimately unsatisfying as Lost, this livestream did nothing to assuage your doubts.
Are we sure HBO was behind this? Maybe EPA chief Scott Pruitt was trying to prove that human activity doesn’t melt ice after all.
If Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen — the ice and fire personified — do finally hook up in the show’s penultimate season, as is repeatedly rumored, we’d better hope their long-anticipated meeting is hotter than this.