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Award-winning ads can teach us a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing. That’s why we’ve been looking at some exceptional ones and extracting important lessons from them.

This last ad we’ll cover won four International Advertising Bureau’s MIXX Awards and an AdWeek Buzz Award.

HBO and Campfire Tell a Story

HBO and Campfire put together a highly effective marketing campaign for the “True Blood” series.

Here’s a detailed look at the marketing campaign for the show:

What made the marketing campaign for HBO’s first season of True Blood so remarkable was the way it was woven into the mythology of the show itself.

Vials of a mysterious red liquid with messages in a “dead language” were mailed to goth and horror bloggers, leading them to a “vampire-only” website. Videos featuring “real vampires” debating whether or not they should reveal themselves to an unsuspecting human populace were “leaked.” An outdoor poster campaign promoting a new beverage called TruBlood and featuring PSAs supporting equal rights for vampires appeared in major metro areas – none of which ever mentioned the TV show.

By creating a complex backstory about a synthetic beverage that enabled vampires to “live among humans,” HBO and its creative partner, Campfire, were able to tap into an existing community of horror aficionados and organically build an audience that made True Blood one of HBO’s most anticipated and successful show debuts.

The result? 6.6 million viewers tuned in for the premiere.

Lessons From This Campaign

The True Blood Story has two lessons for marketers:

1. This is another stellar example of why you want to market to your niche. Notice this campaign directly targeted goth and horror bloggers who would be likely to start a conversation about True Blood.
2. People like stories. If you can create a story around your business or product, people will pay more attention. The story tied in with the show, but the marketing campaign never focused on the television show.