HBO Uses Real Brands To Target Faux Audience
HBO loves creating fake brands to promote its original programming, as when four artificial brands were fabricated to promote the second season of "Big Love."
Last year, a print, outdoor and online campaign promoted a synthetic blood nourishment drink to hype the series premiere of "True Blood."
I wondered how HBO would put a different spin on fake brands when touting the second season of "True Blood," returning June 14.
This time around, familiar household brands such as Ecko, Geico, Harley-Davidson, MINI, Gillette and Monster.com, promote fictional products to a specific, nonexistent, target audience: vampires.
Ads are running in US Weekly, TV Guide, New York Times, New York magazine and AM New York, among others.
I like this cross-promotional campaign and the unexpected way that large, recognizable brands took a gamble with a tie-in to a series about vampires co-existing with humans. Then again, it seems like the "Twilight" series isn't going away anytime soon, so associating your brand with vampires might be more strategic than risky.
The ad created for MINI urges the vampire set to "feel the wind in your fangs" while a Harley-Davidson ad encourages vampires to "outrun the sun." I especially enjoyed the copy used in an ad for Monster.com: "When you sleep in a coffin, it's easy to think outside the box." See the ads here, here, here, here, here and here.
Kara Stallings, Producer at the Digital Kitchen, the agency that created the print and online creative, found brands receptive to participating in the cross-promotional campaign.
"We made a short list of brands that we thought would be a good fit. The brands needed to be iconic, big advertisers," said Stallings. "A natural impulse would have been to go after really offbeat, aggressive brands like Axe, Trojan or something like that. But what makes this campaign work is that you are not expecting a twist from these brands. If Axe put out a campaign selling body spray to vampires, you probably wouldn't look twice. It's expected that they are going to do something crazy," continued Stallings.
PHD, HBO's media agency, handled the media buy.
An additional element promoting "True Blood's" second season came from Campfire.
The agency approached Gawker Media to "acquire" BloodCopy.com, a Web site loaded with content for vampires that Campfire launched last year.
The site boasts a fan base of vampire culture lovers and fans of the show. Gawker will post 6 original blog entries a day about celebrity gossip in the vampire world, fashion, and other topics, written in a tone similar to what you'll find on Gawker.
Campfire is creating roughly 30 videos for the site. Watch a collection of video snippets, here. The agency also orchestrated the media buy between Gawker and HBO.
James Young, account supervisor at Campfire, describes the change in content found on BloodCopy.com. "This year, with the world and back-story established, we've moved away from narrative to instead focus on all of the different ways in which the world has changed. Our videos show slices of life from a variety of areas that touch on politics, sports, entertainment and human interest. This approach is what made Gawker such a perfect partner. With their network of blogs stretching across and influencing so many different genres, it has allowed us to get our content to a large, targeted audience," explained Young.