Blood Money: Romanian Music Festival Gets Thirsty
Romania has one of the worst rates of blood donation in Europe. Of a population of 20 million, only 1.7 percent have ever donated blood and very few of them are young people. To raise awareness and get that number up, the National Institute for Blood Transfusions partnered with Untold, where artists like Avicii and David Guetta will play in the Transylvanian city of Cluj next weekend, for the unorthodox payment plan.
"Romania has a serious issue regarding blood donations, which is really an irony considering the famous legends about Dracula and the vampires," says Catalin Dobre, executive creative director at McCann Bucharest, the agency that executed the campaign. "We counted on [the campaign] to spark the conversation about the sensitive subject of blood donations in Romania. The ultimate goal of the campaign is not to get discounts on festival tickets; this campaign is meant to ignite the habit of donating blood."
Earlier this month, blood donation caravans were stationed in Bucharest, giving donors free tickets to the festival. In addition, those who donated blood in select regional transfusion centers received significant discounts.
Thom Kennon, chief strategy officer at New York digital agency Pure, thinks the campaign is clever, though he doesn't think it ties in enough with the festival's target audience. He compares the campaign with another McCann executed for Vodafone. In June, the telecommunications taught senior citizens how to use Facebook, connecting them with college students. Aiming to prove that smartphones and social media are for people of all ages, the campaign subsequently led to an old woman's apartment becoming one of the hottest restaurants in Bucharest.
"The most ageless thing in the world is the need to connect with other humans," he says. "Here, as a program, it's brilliant. But I think they cheated themselves about not getting deep enough for the insight. As I look at the creative of vampires hooked into IVs — it's catchy, it gets your attention and I think you'll take a second look at it — but the question has to be, 'Should I give blood?"
Though the ads' Dracula angle ties in with the region — Cluj is 180 miles from Bran Castle, which inspired Bram Stoker's iconic novel — they ultimately don't have anything to do with the event or the EDM crowd. Kennon thinks a better tie-in with the audience would have resulted in more social buzz and as a result, more donations.
"Vampire territory is too easy; it takes away from the creative idea," he says. He thinks the campaign could have played more to the rabidity of EDM fans, though he still thinks Pay With Blood is brilliant.
Despite Kennon's reservations, the campaign has taken off in Romania. The story was picked up by several TV stations and festival-goers' televised interviews ultimately served as calls-to-action. As more people saw the story, more people donated blood. The hospital in Cluj, the country's second-largest city, is currently figuring out how to store more blood, after running out of fridge space.
"In the retailers that sell the festival tickets, next to the credit card acceptance signs, you can find the 'Pay with blood' sign," Dobre explains. "Soon, the same option will be available online. If you choose 'Pay with blood,' you will find information about the centers where you can donate in exchange for tickets."
Mike O'Brien covers all things digital marketing as a reporter for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Mashable, The Brooklyn Paper, and various other publications between New York and Oregon, where he earned a Master's degree in journalism in 2008.