The new vampire drama gets attention due to its topical ads

If HBO’s new vampire drama True Blood is as eye-catching as the network’s campaign to promote it, then we’re in for a chillingly good time when it premieres on Sept. 7. Outdoor ads in urban gay neighborhoods that ask ”Where were you when vampires came out?” not only capitalize on the show’s central allegory — harmless vampires who live among prejudiced humans — but also tout a bottled drink called Tru Blood. The gimmick has driven some consumers to HBO’s website, where they’ve tried in vain to buy the product or locate a dealer. They discover that the beverage, which is supposed to be synthetic blood, exists only in the dramatic world created by Alan Ball, mastermind behind Six Feet Under. (He adapted the idea from the Sookie Stackhouse book series by Charlaine Harris.) The ads also include small print that encourages vampires to ”drink responsibly,” and their ingenuity even led one fan to tell HBO to manufacture the ale during a recent panel at Comic-Con in San Diego. (The network says it has no plans to expand into the beverage business…for now.) ”We didn’t mean to dupe people,” says Zach Enterlin, HBO’s VP of advertising and promotions. ”We just wanted a campaign that breaks through and resonates. It’s a testament to how true to form the ads are. Some people aren’t paying close attention.”