Driving viewers from TV to the Web, and back again.
I've been a big fan of the Fox's "Prison Break" since it launched last year. I TiVo it, so I never miss an episode. (They shot the current season here in Dallas, so I happened to run into a few of the actors at a Mavericks' championship game.)
In last week's episode, a couple of things happened that piqued my interest. First, the main character, Michael Scofield, said to the rest of the escapees that if they got separated and needed to communicate, they could do so through EuropeanGoldFinch.net. The second occurred at the end of the show, when they usually show scenes from the upcoming episode. Viewers were invited to visit the show's Web site for an extended preview and behind-the-scenes footage, brought to you by American Express.
As I was both time-shifting and media meshing as I watched (I was on my laptop at the time), I had the opportunity to go from TV show to the Web and back again.
The first time I connected, I went looking for EuropeanGoldFinch.net. The site didn't seem to have anything related to "Prison Break." I tried to find clues in the forum user names with no luck. At that point, I thought Fox had missed an opportunity to do something interesting. Upon further research, I found several references to EuropeanGoldFinch on "Prison Break" forums on the Fox site. Turns out the quirky URL is owned by Fox. I assume they're going to somehow incorporate it into the show, or the fan buzz. We'll have to wait and see. I still think there may be an opportunity to incorporate an advertiser in this hunt for clues. Perhaps an advertiser could do something like Sprite did as part of their "Lost" tie-in with Sublymonal.com.
The second time the show sent me online was to check out the extended preview. When I got to the "Prison Break" site, there was a prominent link for the content "presented by American Express." The catch: you have to have an American Express card to access that special content. So I typed in my information and got to the content. Why didn't American Express capture e-mail addresses in exchange for access codes? This would have given them a chance to market to potential new cardholders and provided a lot more people access to the content. Either way, I'm sure you can get around not having a card by getting a code from a site like BugMeNot.
The extended preview was cool. They also had bonus material, an interview with the actor who plays T-Bag. The site was fairly shallow, but I still felt special, having received restricted content that was valuable to me.
The other oddball thing about the special section was the fact there were only two calls-to-action from American Express. One made a lot of sense. "Explore Membership" presents the benefits of being a cardholder. The was to "Apply For The Card." This is odd, given you have to have a card to get into the section. I'm sure people found ways to enter without being cardholders, but my guess is most of us don't need to apply for another card.
Either way, it's great that TV producers are driving people from television to the Web and back again. And it's great that advertisers are looking for new ways to engage customers and prospects in new ways, and offering value in the process. If you're a fan of "Prison Break," media meshing or American Express, let me know what you think.
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