ImageSUCK ON THIS.

Got your attention, didn't I? That's not one of my headlines, though I wish it were. It's part of the advertising campaign for the new HBO vampire series True Blood (premiering Sept. 7), a state-of-the-art promotional juggernaut I'd have given my (pointy) eye teeth to participate in.

There's been something of a fuss about the True Blood campaign. It was created by a production company/ad agency called Campfire, headed by the fellas behind The Blair Witch Project, who know something about pre-release buzz-building.

Campfire's True Blood campaign — according to the New York Times, "the most extensive that HBO has ever undertaken" — is pulling out all the stops: letters written in dead languages (Babylonian, Ugaritic) enclosed in black envelopes sealed with red wax sent to pillars of the goth community; "BloodCopy," a faux blog chronicling "the amazing days we live in as vampires attempt to integrate with humans"; YouTube-ready prequels dramatizing the series' backstory; TV spots promoting a human-blood substitute called Tru Blood.

That last example betrays the real genius of the campaign — the advertising not of the show, but of this groundbreaking product. Which brings me to the print ads.

So I'm flipping through Entertainment Weekly and I come to an ad for some kind of beverage that waylays me with the headline "SUCK ON THIS." The copy was so arresting that I was compelled
A client who enables — and approves the fruits of — that kind of creativity is the client you want.
to read on. Imagine my surprise when underneath the product name I encountered the words "SYNTHETIC BLOOD NOURISHMENT BEVERAGE." Hmm. The subsequent line — "HBO REMINDS VAMPIRES TO DRINK RESPONSIBLY" — was the tipoff that this was actually an ad for a TV show. Hooked beyond any possibility of turning the page before reading to the end, I proceeded to the small print: "IMPORTED FOR THE UNDEAD EXCLUSIVELY BY YAKONOMO CORPORATION." The Yakonomo Corporation, natch, is the fictional bottler of the fake blood, which you learn if you proceed to TruBeverage.com, conveniently cited at the bottom of the page. Needless to say, you can learn more about True Blood there, too.

After my initial encounter, I happened upon the following:

  • REAL BLOOD IS FOR SUCKERS.
  • ALL FLAVOR. NO BITE.
  • FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS DRINK FRIENDS.
The third, in particular, made me wish I'd gotten the assignment to collaborate with Campfire's clever crew on print ads. A client who enables — and approves the fruits of — that kind of creativity is the client you want. And, as you may have guessed, I have a special fondness for print (I enjoy hold-in-your-hand reading material; I organize my life by writing in a battered leather day planner; my office is and will remain paperful).

For all the whiz-bang appeal and metrics-supported efficacy of alternate-reality games, brand ambassadors, widgets, microsites, social networking, blogs, podcasts, viral videos and the other manifestations of advertainment that have revolutionized marketing, I still respond most acutely to print. Sometimes three little words on a piece of paper are all you need to reel 'em in. Suck on that.