The American Legacy Foundation's youth-focused anti-smoking campaign, Truth, is channeling auteur of the living dead George Romero with a new zombi-fied campaign tied to MTV's "The Real World."
"Real World: Zombieville" also parodies the MTV reality program itself and will air in tandem with "The Real World: New Orleans." Mirroring the show's tone and style, including the use of handheld cameras intercut with "confessional" testimonials from the cast, the Truth 60-second video series ties zombies to cigarettes.
As in "The Real World," (not to mention classic flesh-rending b-movies like "Night of the Living Dead") the videos put seven fictive strangers in a house surrounded by zombies. In each of the six episodes, in which zombies try to lure cast members out of their house and eat them, a different deleterious aspect of tobacco and its marketing is delineated in a way that makes zombies a metaphor for tobacco. In one video, the group cuts a zombie's arm off before he can break into their house. The arm bears a tobacco-style warning label, "Zombies are Known to Attack and Eat You."
The anti-tobacco message is downplayed. The series' teaser, for instance, shows zombies surrounding the house, with voiceover saying: "There's something out there ... that has been biologically engineered ... genetically altered ... and is killing over five million worldwide ... every year ..." but doesn't mention tobacco.
A section of the MTV Web site will include the Zombieville spots, background information on the Zombieville cast, and behind-the-scenes footage. Trailers started on Aug. 18, and the episodes end mid- September.
Truth has been involved with MTV for some years. Last October, Truth aired mini-episodes based on "Made" about young adults trying to make it on the Truth tour crew.
For "The Infectors" integration, two young men who were like MTV hosts talked about tobacco. In all five spots, a crowd of people interrupt innocent bystanders in everyday experiences to illustrate some of the claims made by tobacco industry executives.
Nicole Dorrier, senior director, youth prevention marketing at the Legacy Foundation, says MTV and Truth first teamed up in 2006. "What we found is that it works best when we use MTV's voice the way they intended it and couple it with Truth's message."
Dorrier says that for the zombie segments Truth worked with MTV's production team at its studios, with MTV handling production and Truth's creative team (Arnold Worldwide, Boston) helping to develop story lines.
The 60-second videos are meant to seem like part of "The Real World" or extensions of it, rather than as separate ads. "They will run within the programming of the show," she says. "What we like about it is, it feels like it's organic to the show, an extension of what they are already doing -- a mini-episode within the real episode."
She says that the choice to make zombies the central metaphor was based, at least on part, on the current vampire/supernatural fad. "It's very popular with teens right now, so we wanted to use those images in a humorous and almost ridiculous tone. It's very over the top." She says the parody is similar in tone to Truth's "Shards" campaign that posits a company that sells shards of broken glass.
In one of the new episodes, a zombie tries to lure girls out of the house by dressing in pink and teal outfits, which is intended to mirror a 2007 Camel campaign in candy colors.
Dorrier says Truth will partner with VH1 in the next few months and is about to launch an integration with CW around "Vampire Diaries" that goes live Aug. 27. "We are trying to work with all of our partners with TV and online to go beyond 30-second commercials."