Home / Blog / Behind the Unorthodox Marketing of True Blood: How Digital Kitchen Created the Buzz Around the HBO T.V. Series

Behind the Unorthodox Marketing of True Blood: How Digital Kitchen Created the Buzz Around the HBO T.V. Series

HBO has been drawing people into a world where vampires are real and living among humans for two seasons now. They began their alternative marketing campaign with Bloodcopy, an adverblog created last year to promote the show. They have also mixed advertising and editorial in an issue of Vanity Fair that featured famous people hanging out with vampires at different events.

But for the second season of the show, HBO went back the advertising firm Digital Kitchen (the firm did some of the advertising for the first season and is the mastermind behind the show’s opening sequence) to create a campaign that mixed advertising for the show with advertising for other companies.

Where the Ideas Came From

The ideas that sparked Digital Kitchen’s campaign were, “How would real brands position themselves for a new undead demographic? Would it be cheating if super-powered vampires were in the Olympics? Do vampires need special dentists?” Digital Kitchen said on their Web site.

“The answers to these questions and others resulted in a campaign that brought world-class brands, athletes, lawyers, policemen, dentists, dog trainers, and the general public into Alan Ball’s True Blood universe,” they said.

Digital Kitchen needed advertising that connected with a larger audience, not just die-hard fans and they wanted to create, “something that was fun and campy and twisted like the show itself.” In an effort to create a campaign that caused the audience to take a second look, Digital Kitchen said it took it’s inspiration from something the main character Sookie Stackhouse says in the first episode of the second season: “Every time I think I know what’s what…turns out I don’t know anything.”

Marketing With Well-Known Brands

At the beginning Digital Kitchen thought only a couple of brands would jump on the idea but by the time they were ready to begin marketing, six brands responded. So the advertising firm teamed up with Geico, Monster, Mini, Harley-Davidson, Gillette, and Mark Ecko to create advertising that was not only promoting True Blood but was also consistent with the branding of each company to create the closest thing they could to “real” advertising.

“The closer to their ‘real’ advertising we could get, the more disrupting our campaign would be. We worked with each of the key marketing people to make sure we were aligned perfectly both in terms of their strategy but also in terms of their brand guidelines,” Digital Kitchen said.

Marc Ecko’s ad revolved around a fragrance for vampires, which perfectly coincided with the launch of his first fragrance line. On his blog, he said, “I did a promo with the HBO Vampire hit show “True Blood”. They reached out to us to create “faux limited edition” versions of a product … exclusively for Vampires… I am in fact REALLY launching my first fragrance this fall. So the timing was great. So, for those that have asked or reached out to know if the product is real…yes it is…”

This kind of mixing of promotion for the show and the actual brands involved has helped reinforce True Blood’s unique story idea that vampires live among us, and created advertisements that make the consumer take a second look.

Well, Did It Work?

The premiere episode of True Blood averaged 3.7 million viewers. That viewership made it the most watched original program for a premium cable channel since the series finale of The Sopranos. And the season two opener was up 157 percent from the season one premiere.

Digital Kitchen’s efforts to help create the world of True Blood in the real world have not only created buzz about the show and possibly added to its viewership, it was a truly unique advertising campaign that has taken Sookie Stackhouse and her vampire Bill out of fiction and walking among us in the real world.

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