Vampires and Witches

So, you are in the comfort of your own home, lying on the sofa, watching an HBO movie, eating popcorn… and this PSA comes up:

No explanation, no post-script, nothing. You would think someone with too much money and time on their hands had decided to play a prank on primetime TV. You’d be intrigued, and it would probably be in the back of your mind for the next few days. Then, you’d see this:

And this:

And this:

Untitled6

By now, you would definitely think something was going on. You probably would have heard from your friends that a new TV show, True Blood was coming to HBO. And after all the hype, you’d want to know what it is all about, no? Well, that’s what HBO was counting on, anyway. They embarked in one of the most extensive, creative viral marketing campaigns in TV industry history. The catch: the majority of their ads didn’t even mention the TV show. They were made to look real. Posters, magazine ads, websites, dating websites, videos, ads, a mock documentary all created as if the True Blood world had joined our own.

This youtube video summarizes their experience:

Oh, but they didn’t stop at the premiere. For the second season of the show, HBO persuaded several real brands to allow their logos, branding and real ads to be re-interpreted for a fanged audience. Again, there was no explanation that it was all about a show. Here are some examples:

Untitled8

Untitled9

hg

lgljb

→ The Blair Witch Project

The marketers for True Blood were certainly extremely creative, but they weren’t the first to blur the line between reality and fiction. You might remember the Blair Witch Project, a 1999 American horror movie/documentary. The film tells the story of three student amateur filmmakers who disappeared while hiking in Maryland to film a documentary about a local legend, the Blair Witch. Viewers are told that the teenagers were never seen or heard from again, and that what the film viewers are watching is the actual footage the police found when investigating their disappearance.

Here’s the trailer:

The campaign was so well made that if you looked on IMDB before the film was released, you’d see the three actors listed as missing, presumed dead. Missing people leaflets and posters were handed out in college campuses and film festivals. Now that’s advertising.