Did HBO's 'True Blood' Campaign Achieve Immortality or Just Plain Suck?

GEICO Vampire AdSunday night played host to an anxiously-awaited television event on our newly all-digital TV signals (and we're not talking about the Lakers' victory). It was the premiere of the second season of True Blood, the vampiric HBO show that first catapulted into our collective consciousness with a series of extremely effective viral ads that had all of us doing double-takes when we caught our first glimpse of ads for the TruBlood energy drink. Viewership skyrocketed during the first season, so HBO was faced with the challenge to top the faux-blood beverage for Season Two. Did they?

This year, HBO tapped Digital Kitchen, the same firm that designed the main titles, to create several mock ads that target vampires. They also made six videos that played upon the thought of vampires being casually inserted into roles as lawyers and Olympic athletes (see all the videos and media response). But it's the mock ads that we're most interested in, seeing as they persuaded at least eight real brands—Harley-Davidson, Mini, Monster.com, Gillette, Geico, Marc Ecko, Comcast, and DirecTV—to hand over their logos, branding, and, in some cases, actual ad campaigns to be reinterpreted for a more fanged audience. HBO went even deeper with the prank this season, adding a page to the show's site with "Ads for Vampires" that feels like standard promotional placement, featuring all the brands and why they're supportive of the undead community (Monster.com: "Vampires unique physiology qualifies them for jobs too dangerous for humans."). Brilliant or bloody awful? Take a look at some of the companies that played along and see if you think their brand equity got its moment in the sun—er, pitch black darkness.


Mini: The headline we could have done without—it conjures up a vision of a dog hanging its head out of the rear window—but the blood-red Mini is nice, and we can totally see the teeth in the paint job.


Monster.com: There are better ones of these that we've seen around town, but you have to hand it to Monster.com for embracing the whole monster-vampire connection.


Harley-Davidson: A solid rebellious brand and it's completely believable that Harley would have vampires patronizing its bikes. Couldn't you see the Lost Boys riding these?


Gillette: These don't look much different from those Mach 3 (are we up to 5? 7?) razor ads, so it really takes a minute or two before you get the joke. Come to think of it, we've never seen a vampire that's not clean shaven. Guess they're not worried about nicks.


Geico: That talking money thing freaks us out already as it is, so the fangs are a nice touch. But do vampires really need insurance?


Nope, this wasn't an ad for True Blood's second season, rather, these were ads promoting the first season airing in New Zealand. This one's pretty great—not to mention useful if you need, say, something to stir a bucket of new paint—plus it gives new meaning to making your idea stick.

What do you think? Were True Blood's ads something you could really sink your teeth into?

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[True Blood New Zealand image via PSFK]

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  • Larry Jebsen

    HBO was also innovative in how it integrated this campaign online and offline. Check out examples of how it is utilizing video with paid search to leverage the search demand generated by the campaign here: http://www.searchandsocialmedi...

  • Byron Davies

    True Blood was the first show to jump the shark before it was even on the air.

  • Charles Yarbrough

    The image of that sh0ow is much better then the actual show. So yes it's working great. The marketers are doing great only if the filming cast where as good.


  • Alissa Walker

    Those ratings do sound like a vote for success, Todd. And Gretchen, that's an awesome point. These might qualify for a new category entirely: viral-obvious?

  • Gretchen Jameson

    Uniquely, does something truly qualify as viral when it's so obviously done? It's hardly a sneak attack here ...

  • Todd Galloway

    The season premiere was 2nd most watched HBO episode ever - right behind Sopranos finale, so i'd say it was a success. The campaign at least -- we'll know if the first ep did well by the second ep numbers, of course.