TV shows typically don’t have the backing of major advertisers the way Hollywood tentpoles do upon their release.
But for the second-season launch of “True Blood,” HBO enlisted eight major marketers to create vampire-themed campaigns in major newspapers and magazines, on billboards and across the Web. It’s a push any marketing maven would die for.
The Mini car brand touts a blood-red convertible with the tagline “Feel the wind in your fangs” while Geico claims it can save vampires 15% on auto insurance. Monster.com offers “thousands of night shifts,” and a new fragrance from Marc Ecko promises to “attract a human,” accompanied by a titillating shot of a vamp about to snack on a model.
Comcast, DirecTV and Harley-Davidson were also involved in the effort scared up by Digital Kitchen, which produced 30 ads for the brands, and designed the main titles for the show.
HBO was looking for a campaign that stressed how vampires live among us, with vampire-specific product concepts from the companies. The faux ads look like stuff the brands might actually conjure up themselves.
“Our goal was to ignite curiosity and inspire buzz about the show,” says Zach Enterlin, VP of advertising and promotions for HBO. “Authenticity is really important and critical to credibility.”
The irony is that HBO doesn’t air advertising its own channels, nor does it accept fees for product placement. HBO wound up footing the bill for the paid ads, which run through the rest of the month. The campaign will continue online and at events like Comic-Con throughout the season.
Marketers are ever eager to tie in with hot properties, and the “True Blood” campaign could give TV nets some new ideas of how to take a page from movie marketing and creatively use consumer brands to make their shows stand out with viewers.
The visuals have seemed to help “True Blood’s” return: The season-two bow on June 14 attracted 3.7 million viewers, up 51% from season one’s finale. An encore gave it a combined 5.1 million.
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to resonate with consumers given how cluttered the advertising marketplace is,” Enterlin says. “Any chance we get to reach out to a consumer beyond a traditional print ad and 30-second spot is an opportunity we really need to seize.”