True Blood invades virtual reality

On: September 10, 2011
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About Luana Pascu
I am enrolled in the New Media MA at the University of Amsterdam. I have a BA in American Studies and Swedish and an Msc in Marketing and PR. My area of interest is advertising I am very interested in how New Media can be used to increase brand awareness, develop online projects and online advertising. At the same time, I am also interested in social media and how they facilitate crime and identity theft.


The development of new communication means in recent years has turned into a genuine PR and advertising opportunity. The rise of the Internet together with the changes in the behavior of the media consumer triggered a special interest in improving the marketing techniques. I will therefore discuss the importance of New Media in advertising, focusing on the campaign started for the HBO TV-series True Blood.

Before the show aired for the first time in 2008, the idea of a supernatural world in which humans co-exist with vampires was subtly introduced through a cost-effective four-month viral marketing campaign. This mainly involved flooding social media (Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter) with an application for a vampire game where you could create your own avatar, information about a new synthetic blood beverage, Tru Blood, and with videos of vampires encouraging its use for a better relationship with humans. Shortly, this turned into a worldwide phenomenon and the new drink was made available to the public via a dedicated website where it could easily be ordered online. For further information please click here. Also, any active member on Facebook could make their own video, a preview of season 4, which included their friends names and pictures in the opening credits, newspaper headlines and news bulletin. Immortalize yourself in the True Blood.

This early campaign received positive feedback because the viewer became an active character in this newly-created virtual community. The online campaign was doubled by a more complex multi-platform marketing plan which involved print ads of products targeted especially for vampires (life insurance, vampire sunscreen, Harley Davidson), outdoor billboard ads, interactive applications for IPhone, and television commercials of these products and services. The highlight of the campaign was, in fact, a gore cover for Rolling Stone magazine of the three main characters naked and covered in blood.

However, just as interesting are Jessica’s blog and video-blogs which are used to record her frustrations outside the show we get on TV every Sunday night. For example, she tapes herself trying to control her fangs, giving dead girls make-up advice for Halloween, filing her teeth and complaining about love and family life.  Although her stories are separate from the general plot, they help in creating a virtual community, a different social reality, thus having a direct impact on the viewer (i.e. the young adult). At the moment, the video-blog posts count each over 100 comments from fans relating to the character itself and not having a conversation with the actress Deborah Ann Woll. This so called “face-to-face” interaction or simply video-sharing increases the brand awareness of True Blood making it more available in reaching its target audience at an international level, due to the constant necessity and desire for fresh information. Nowadays, the final consumer, who is highly active online and in social media, is more capable of evaluating a brand and even deconstructing one if necessary.

It is easy to conclude that the creativity behind the marketing campaign for True Blood truly paid off, as the show has reached the end of season 4 and has managed to set up a loyal international fan base. I look forward to seeing how creative the advertising agency will be for the upcoming fifth season.

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