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What was the initial promotional mix of the True Blood campaign, and how might it suggest an observance of IMC?What was the initial promotional mix of the True Blood campaign, and how might it suggest an observance of IMC?

by | Jun 19, 2022 | Questions & Answers

HBO’s Blood Virus
When prominent occult film bloggers and fans began receiving
strange letters written in dead languages and mailed in wax-sealed
black envelopes, a shockwave of curiosity and excitement rippled
through the horror-film fandom. A legion of bloggers and
message-board posters set to work translating the letters from
languages like Babylonian and Ugaritic into English, discovering
that the missives led them to a mysterious and macabre Web site
featuring an image of a seductive lady vampire. The site advertised
a beverage called TruBlood—a synthetic blood developed by the
Japanese, which vampires could drink as an alternative to feeding
on humans. As visitors explored the site, they discovered short
webisodes for the then-upcoming HBO television series that
incorporates the TruBlood beverage into its storyline.
The letters and Web site were developed as part of a viral
marketing campaign by HBO and Campfire Media, an independent agency
founded by two of the creators of the successful 1999
film The Blair Witch Project. Viral marketing is the
propagation of brand or product awareness through pre-existing
social networks, using unconventional media, with the hope that the
campaign spreads as a cultural phenomenon. In addition to the
letters, Campfire established a fictional blog and MySpace pages
written by characters from the show, launched a human–vampire
dating service, advertised TruBlood on vending machines, and
strategically leaked tidbits of information and multimedia about
the show. Campfire employees closely monitored popular horror blogs
and message boards in order to gauge and encourage public interest,
as well as orchestrate the release of new materials.
The campaign was an incredible, if somewhat subversive
success—not only did Campfire generate momentous interest in the
show, but a number of individuals actually tried to locate a
TruBlood distributor. “We didn’t mean to dupe people,” said Zach
Enterlin, HBO’s vice president of advertising and promotions. “We
just wanted a campaign that breaks through and resonates a little
bit. It’s a testament to how true to form the ads are. Some people
aren’t paying close attention.” Viral marketing campaigns are ideal
for shows like True Blood, whose fans fervently share
and discuss ideas within Internet communities. In addition, as it’s
based on the popular Sookie Stackhouse series of books by Charlaine
Harris, True Blood came with an avid built-in
fan base of those already familiar with the story.
Viral marketing has been a successful part of many advertising
campaigns, such as those of 2008
films Cloverfield and The Dark
Knight. Cloverfield, a film in which gargantuan
monsters rampage through New York City, is captured on handheld
video cameras. It was introduced to viewers through an untitled,
unexplained teaser trailer that played before
2007’s Transformers movie. As speculation
mounted, Cloverfield marketers unveiled a number
of enigmatic Web sites, as well as a tie-in campaign for the
fictional Slusho! beverage and a Japanese drilling company, both of
which play a part in Cloverfield’s mythology.
In May of 2007, 42 Entertainment began a viral campaign
for The Dark Knight, a sequel to
2005’s Batman Begins. The campaign focused on the
film’s antagonists: a Web site titled “I believe in Harvey Dent”
was created as an advertisement for district attorney candidate
Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart), as was a site titled “I
Believe in Harvey Dent Too,” a defiled version of the former which
slowly revealed the first image of The Joker (played by Heath
Ledger) as visitors sent e-mails through the site. The Joker’s
catchphrase “Why so serious?” spread virally on the Internet, and
was used as the URL of a Web site that sent visitors on a
Joker-themed scavenger hunt.
As True Blood’s premier drew near, HBO and
Campfire turned to less obtuse, if still unorthodox, methods of
advertisement. A prequel comic book about an elder vampire and the
development of the show was handed out for free
at 2008’s San Diego Comic-Con, the largest pop cultural convention
in the world. The first episode of True
Blood was distributed on DVD for free to thousands of
moviegoers at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, and was
made available for rental from Blockbuster Video several days
before it aired on television.
True Blood premiered on HBO on September 7,
2008—six months after Campfire’s subtle marketing campaign began.
According to Nielsen Co., the first three-quarters of 2008 saw
HBO’s viewership drop by nearly 23 percent compared to the previous
year. However, thanks to interest in new shows such
as True Blood, HBO saw a 2.4 percent increase in
fourth-quarter viewership compared to 2007. Without question, the
success of True Blood is due in part to the
novel marketing developed by Campfire Media.

1. What
is the communication process for viral marketing? Is it different
from conventional marketing? How so?

2. What
was the initial promotional mix of the True
Blood campaign, and how might it suggest an observance of

3. Did Cloverfield use
a push or pull promotional strategy? What about The Dark
Knight? Explain.


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