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Mysterious mailings in a dead language and vials of an unknown red liquid. Secretive websites with webcam gatekeepers and hidden passwords. A Scottish informer who ends up dead. A lauded screenwriter who allows a marketing company to contribute to his newest project.
All strange elements pondered on their own, and yet collectively add up to key plot points in the ad campaign for Alan Ball's new HBO series True Blood, based on the popular book series about vampires by Charlaine Harris. Ball, the Oscar-winning writer of American Beauty and the man behind Six Feet Under, wanted the lead-up marketing to this new show to prepare the audience for the world of True Blood through a back story series of prequels a comic book and more, essentially intertwining the advertising with the artistic property. For this particular challenge, there could hardly be a better match for an HBO show about vampires than a creative shop called Campfire.
Founded by two of The Blair Witch Project creators, Campfire's highest profile calling card is 2005's "Art of the Heist" campaign for Audi, wherein the agency staged a mock robbery of a New York Audi and then enlisted online users to track down the thieves. But True Blood represents something of a perfect storm for the agency, considering its pedigree in horror and creative online marketing -- Blair Witch was made for $22,000 and earned $248 million, largely due to deft use of the internet.
Zach Enterlin, HBO's vice president of advertising and promotion says when Ball issued the marketing challenge to immerse viewers into the world of True Blood before the first episode even aired, Campfire immediately came to mind. "I'd read a lot about some of the campaigns they had done over the past few years, most notably with Audi," he says. "When True Blood came about we thought it would be a great opportunity to flesh out this world further and deliver a really immersive experience. And I think that's Campfire's strong suit, the notion of storytelling through promotional content."