Transmedia Entertainment & Marketing

IBCoM: CM2052

TrueBlood: The Fan(g)cy Transmedia Story

Transmedia storytelling is when a story unfolds itself across multiple media platforms in which each element and medium needs to make its own valuable contribution in unfolding the story (Kapoor, 2012). A good example of this is the serie TrueBlood (Hardy, 2011). The serie TrueBlood is based on the novels of Charlaine Harris called ‘The Southern Vampire Mysteries’.

The primary media used were the books written by Charlaine Harris which were already very popular and caused HBO, who needed a new hitserie after the Sopranos, to base a serie on the books. They decided to promote the serie with the use of transmedia storytelling. There were the usual trailers and posters: however, the makers of the show decided to go all out with the promotion of their soon to be new hit show. Before the show even started they aired commercials in television breaks about the drink TruBlood (the drink of the vampires in the serie) and how that enabled the vampires to ‘come out of the coffin’ followed by commercials containing vampire-targeted products. Within these advertisements there were links to the ‘so called’ vampire owned websites and websites made by the anti-vampire community. Time Warner, who owns HBO, had a deal with YouTube so the advertisements, trailers and clips were available online and thereby copied and used by the fans. So before the show even started they used different platforms to make people interested in the show which turned out to be a huge success since the show was well received with an average of 6,8 million viewers per week after it launched in September 2008 on the HBO network (Hardy, 2011).

To promote and bring attention to the upcoming seasons they used several other and somewhat unusual platforms. For example they made a mockumentary and documentaries about vampires that they released on the internet on the social media platforms. The documentaries gave insights into the world of vampires and caused more people to become a fan of the show. There were 6 minisodes made to promote season 3 which were spread online which were eventually viewed by over 1,4 million fans. Snoop Dogg, who is a huge fan of the show, made his own rap homage to the main character of the show:

The title song of the show became immense popular along with other soundtracks used in the show from which CD’s were sold separately from the DVD’s. Lady Gaga’s video ‘Teeth’ was re-edited with images from the show to promote season 3. There were vampire blogs produced which showed extra background of some of the characters of the show. To promote the show further than just on television or on the internet there were billboards containing posters with marked-out wooden stakes and instructions (to kill vampires), there were people on the streets in the US with fake petitions for and against vampires and there were the ‘so-called’ fangbangers (which is what the people who sleep with vampires are called in the show) who showed up in bars. There was an alternate reality game, puzzles and capsules of ‘blood’ in unmarked envelopes. There was a website launched which started selling ‘vampire products’ and there were advertisements made for these products on the radio, online and in magazines. There were also fake ads for vampire products featuring real brands like Gilette ‘Dead Sexy’ and Harley-Davidson ‘Outrun the Sun’.

The promotion campaign even contained fake weather reports for vampires on the radio and an 8-page vampire insert in newspapers, followed by party-photos of celebrities with fangs in the Vanity Fair, a vampire-inspired show at the Australian Fashion Week from the fashion label Saint Augustine Acadamy, an Entertainment Weekly issue about vampire articles, comic books and an iPhone app that generates bloody fingerprints when the user touches the screen (Hardy, 2011). There is even a fan made web show called ‘Fang in there Bro’ that is created by fans of the show. Not all these contributed to the overall narrative. Several platforms were just to give to get the attention of people who were not yet fans like for example the fake weather reports, the fake petitions, billboards, the fake and real commercials and the fashion show. Though some platforms did contribute to the narrative and gave background or alternate storylines like the games, the blogs, the websites and the minisodes.

We can say that the campaign was quite successful if we look at the amount of views the first season had; an average of 6.8 million a week, which is quite lot. A lot of people are aware of the show as well, and the DVD sales are incredible. According to TVbythenumbers.com, the DVD of the first season of True Blood brought in $26 million in the first two weeks! HBO is also looking to sell the syndication rights for each episode for an estimated $800,000, which is quite a lot of money for one episode. This shows that there is a lot of interest in the series, which shows that the campaign was quite successful.
As mentioned before, transmedia storytelling is when a story unfolds itself across multiple media platforms in which each element and medium needs to make its own valuable contribution in unfolding the story. We can clearly see that this is the case with True Blood, looking at the multiple media platforms used; books, television, blogs, minisodes etc. “Their approach was to think of the film itself as only one part of an overall experience” (Kompare, 2009, p. 118). All these different media platforms each provide a valuable contribution in unfolding the story of True Blood, and getting to know all the characters.

Sources

Hardy, J., (2011) Mapping commercial intertextuality: HBO’s True Blood. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. Vol. 17 No. 1 7-17.

Kapoor, R. (Presenter). (2012, September 15). Transmedia 101. Lecture presented at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Kompare, D. (2009). Futures of Entertainment 3. Cinema Journal49, 116-120.

HBO hopes ‘True Blood’ reruns will bleed green – latimes.com. (n.d.). Blogs – latimes.com. Retrieved September 18, 2012, from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2010/07/hbo-hopes-true-blood-reruns-will-bleed-green.html

True Blood DVD Sales Dwarf Those Of The Closer, Week Ending May 31, 2009, also 24, and Friday Night Lights – Ratings | TVbytheNumbers. (n.d.). TV Ratings, TV Nielsen Ratings, Television Show Ratings | TVbytheNumbers.com. Retrieved September 18, 2012, from http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2009/06/08/true-blood-dvd-sales-dwarf-those-of-the-closer/20326/

Made by Robin Alkemade & Bilal Kabdani

8 comments on “TrueBlood: The Fan(g)cy Transmedia Story

  1. Manon van den Berg
    September 19, 2012

    Dear Robin and Bilal (and others who read this and can answer my questions),
    I really enjoyed reading your paper/blog/post. I especially like how you approached the theme “transmedia storytelling” differently from what I did, focusing on the promotional side of the show. However, this is also the reason why I am left with some questions. You started your paper with the statement “Transmedia storytelling is when a story unfolds itself across multiple media platforms in which each element and medium needs to make its own valuable contribution in unfolding the story (Kapoor, 2012).” Perhaps I misinterpreted the meaning of this sentence, but I believe the focus should then be – when explaining the term with the example of true blood – mostly on how other platforms add up to the story portrayed in the show, making it a sort of puzzle that fills in gaps of other platforms, while still have some left for the interpretation of the consumer. Though it is interesting to read how the company created some sort of “buzz” around the show, it is unclear to me how other platforms were used to unfold the story of True Blood. How come there is not that much about this unfolding in your paper? Can you tell me more about how the other platforms were used in regard of the characters and other story lines? Did the company come up with this at the same time or was it developed by the fans themselves? How do the drinks etc change the story or help unfold it? Again, I really enjoyed your story, also with the clips you’ve added! See you friday!

    Kind regards, Manon

  2. Sydney M.
    September 20, 2012

    Manon,
    I would say the drink helped unfold the story. However, it generated buzz about the series and enabled consumers to contribute to True Blood on an intimate level.

    Robin and Bilal,
    Being from San Diego, every year we host a convention called Comic Con. Comic Con is basically a national convention for all fans mostly, those interested in the comic world, world of sci-fi and fantasy. It is interesting that you guys chose to write about True Blood because they had there very own display at Comic Con this year where fans could enter and exhibit and loose themselves in the world of True Blood. This display was seen by over 100,000 people accessible for the general public during the convention. I felt that this was another good example of transmedia marketing; fans could actually immerse themselves in the True Blood exhibit allowing them to form their own stories as well as become more involved with the online True Blood community by posting pictures and commenting on other peoples experiences. True Blood also used this medium to release season five secrets.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/14/true-blood-comic-con-trailer_n_1673870.html

  3. Emmy Bruijstens
    September 20, 2012

    Manon,
    I agree with your question about what the other platforms contribute to the unfolding of the story of TrueBlood, and I agree that the other platforms such as the commercials do not add any extra information to the story. But I believe the makers of TrueBlood really tried to create a whole new world of vampires. As was also discussed last week, in today’s entertainment media creating content is not enough, you need to create context. And I think that is what the makers of TrueBlood did really well. Especially with the real commercials with existing products, the petitions on the streets, and the radio vampire weather and articles, they tried to make the vampire world intertwine with people’s real world. I think in this case that was especially important because a vampire theme is quite difficult to make it seem real, and not very sci-fi.

    I think that also becomes clear in what you showed, Sydney, at the convention they show new information of upcoming seasons as if it is about real events and real people. They start talking about the characters as real people, and this is exactly what the makers were trying to achieve, that people will take it as real, because that’s when they really become a fan.

  4. Isabelle Parqui (356372)
    September 21, 2012

    I do not regularly watch TrueBlood, simply because I am currently watching too many shows and do not have the time for it. However a lot of my friends watch TrueBlood and are big fans! They told me about funny parodies that came out about the show and they thought they were extremely funny. However I wasnt very amused as you really do have to already be a fan of the show to understand the humor in these parodies! A friend of mine will sometimes say SOO-KEH in a funny voice relating back to these parodies! It makes people laugh and talk about it and that is exactly what they want!
    Here are a few examples –> http://www.blogher.com/five-funniest-true-blood-parodies-plus-snoop-doggs-tribute-sookie

  5. Ghezal (@Ghezallie)
    September 21, 2012

    Dear Robin and Bilal,
    I also enjoyed your blogpost like Manon. It is easily to read and to follow. I think you guys had also a great amount of information on the show, especially about the production and promotion part. Manon I see you are a very alert reader, which is good, because of your question I read the article twice and started thinking about some your questions. Specifically about the interpretation of the statement “Transmedia storytelling is when a story unfolds itself across multiple media platforms in which each element and medium needs to make its own valuable contribution in unfolding the story (Kapoor, 2012).” You said you understand transmedia as one platform fills in the gap of the other platforms. This might be true, but I think in the new transmedia that doesn’t matter and it is not also good, because than all the platforms are depended on each other, like with the matrix example in class. In the matrix you were too dependent on other platforms which made it not the best transmedia movie/show. I agree totally with Emmy, it is not about adding something to the story, it is all about context and making the vampire world look realistic.
    I watched the clip Sydney and I think this show is a bit too scary for me 😛

  6. Ellen
    September 21, 2012

    I agree with you Ghezal, and with Emmy as well! An important part of transmedia is making the audience feel like they could be in the story themselves.. it’s about creating different worlds that all have their own charm and things to discover. The problem with the Matrix was that some parts of the movie or any of the other platforms were a bit blurry if you hadn’t played the game or visited a forum. They took that a bit too far, I think the main media outlet should be very clear, and that all the platforms that surround it should only be extensions of what happens on the main screen.

  7. Pingback: Research Task: True Blood | Bella Walker

  8. Pingback: Task 1: True Blood – PP1.14

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