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Thursday, May 11, 2006LOST 2.0
As many of you may know, I am totally engrossed in the LOST series that is gruelingly slow in unfolding on ABC. Last night was the lead up to the Season Finale next week.
There are many things that are revolutionary about this series, but I think the biggest thing is the whole other world that the series has created. In addition to the hourly show each week there are many websites that the writers have created that tie into the show. There is the mysterious Hanso Foundation websites. There are the weird commercials that are airing during the show, and now there is a novel available for sale that was supposedly written by one of the casualties of the plane crash.
But it wasn't until last night that I discovered how purely genius all of this really is. One of the biggest problems television is facing right now is TiVo. Viewers are using TiVo to tape their favorite shows and then fast forward through commercials. As commercials are the bread and butter of network TV, they need to come up with inventive ways to reach consumers, while still raking in that advertising money.
One way LOST is doing this is by having fake commercials relating to the show during the regular commercials. This is getting viewers to watch the real commercials on the off chance that they see another fake one.
Another way is that LOST has created two worlds. The world of the people on the island that we watch (religiously) every week on TV. And this other world that we the viewer get to experience first hand. Whether its the pleading voice of an alluring female on the 800 number they provided last week during their "commercial", or the mysterious figure hacking in to the Hanso website leaving us cryptic messages about help needed, we feel like our participation is required to not only help this poor soul out, but also to be the first to discover what the hell is going on with the show. On some level, its like these people are really stranded on the island, while the rest of are stuck out here in the real world striving against an evil and powerful multi-national corporation (and there is nothing our generation hates more than powerful multi-national corporations) to free them from their fates. If I don't help them, who will?
They are also now using this massive following they have on the internet to cross promote other products in a very viral way. Last night, one of their fake commercials has in very small text in the bottom corner "sponsored by Sprite" and the commercial led you to a site titled Sublymonal.
Of course the web communities have already picked up on the use of Lymon in the address and the similarities between that site and Sprite's new ad campaign. Now whether or not this will lead to people buying more Sprite is yet to be seen, but I'm sure the traffic generated to their site alone has been phenomenal.
This all got me thinking about how our generation is requiring marketing that is very different from previous generations. While we all enjoy buying things, and are flattered that we are being marketed to, advertisers have a fine line to walk. We don't want to know that the thing we are enjoying is trying to sell us a product. Nothing ruins a Flash game, or crazy website more than knowing that the whole thing is a commercial. We are very against "selling out". So while The Postal Service and Modest Mouse are very popular bands, we just get upset when we see their music in an ad selling us a car. Not only do we not want to buy the car, we might like the band a little less too. (In fact, my girlfriend threatened to stop watching the show because of this tie-in to Sprite.)
But what's the point then of creating these games and sites if you can't tell us what you are trying to sell? Well, you have to make sure that what you create is so amusing or different that we will send it on despite its product tie-ins.
Another flash game about tubing, but where I'm riding a lifesaver rather than an innertube is just not going to cut it.
(Case in point, the very fact that I'm blogging about the LOST/Sprite tie-in just goes to show how well this all worked. Damn it, now I'm a sell-out too!)