HBO Tempts Consumers With ‘Tru Blood’

It’s an election year, so it’s to be expected for people with petitions in hand to stop you on the street — that is, until they start asking if you’re “pro” or “anti” vampire. Also not so ordinary is a delivery truck carrying what’s billed as “synthetic blood nourishment beverage,” as well as vending machines for the crimson-colored drink that are completely sold out.

The creepy effort is part of HBO’s multilayered advertising and promotional campaign for its upcoming drama, True Blood, launching Sept. 7. The show, based on a book series by Charlaine Harris, is set in a world where vampires have gone beyond the crucifix-hating coffin-dwellers of pop culture myth. They walk among regular folks, though they still don’t like sunlight, and they’re treated like outcasts.

Executives at the pay cable network said the show’s content directly influenced the way it would be marketed.

“From the start, we knew this was just so much bigger than print ads and 30-second spots,” said Zach Enterlin, HBO’s vp-advertising and promotions. “We wanted a campaign that’s as rich as the series.”

By the time the show hits the air, the effort will have included alternate reality games; layers of viral outreach to horror, sci-fi and other genre fans; an original comic book; a mockumentary disguised as a news show; a full-blown fake ad campaign for the Tru Blood “beverage,” more than a half-dozen dedicated sites and blogs; YouTube videos; petition-wielding street teams; and “Fangbanger” girls showing up in bars. That’s in addition to traditional media like print, TV, outdoor and radio.

HBO, which scored 85 Emmy nominations Thursday