After conducting one of the more contrived promo campaigns in recent memory, HBO scored 3.7 million viewers for the season-two premiere of True Blood
June 14 - the most watched show for the network since the series finale of The Sopranos
. But it's still quite possible people are more familiar with the ads than the show.
First, there was the co-opting of Gawker Media, which was contracted by HBO's boutique ad agency, Campfire, to get out the word that Gawker had bought another blog - one for real vampires -
Media outlets including Vanity Fair
and AM New York
(which gave over its cover for a "night edition") ran faux editorial, casting supernatural
bloodsuckers as everyday society folk, just as they appear in the Alan Ball-created series.
Then there were the various co-op buys, with Gillette putting out creative that showed a fanged
individual enjoying a nice, knick-free shave. Geico, Harley-Davidson and Monster.com signed on. Mini ran a "Feel the wind in your fangs" ad for its convertible. "We had marketers
marketing to vampires just as they would any other demo," explains an HBO official.
Out of all of it, it was only the Gawker stunt that actually surprised anyone.
Silicon Alley Insider
took the bait. And it wasn't much - just an email inviting editors to a rooftop party at Gawker's Elizabeth Street headquarters to celebrate BloodCopy's
inclusion into the Gawker Media Networks family. Bitten, Insider
editors squeamishly sidestepped responsibility the day after publishing the "news," with a story called "How
HBO and Gawker tricked us into reporting an ad campaign as news."
Gawker's editors and marketing teams, meanwhile, argued publicly about the long-term effects of disguising ads as
editorial, with company vice president of sales Chris Batty noting, "A lot of people who write for us don't remember how we used to pay the bills here."
The rooftop party got
rained on, and the editors (the duped ones didn't show) scrunched together into a muggy corner of a covered tent to get to the bar. Taking no chances that somebody might push the joke too far, few
touched the shots of "TruBlood" going around.