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.
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 Journal, 49, 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