Avoiding the Summer Slump

hanso.jpgThe producers and marketers of hit TV show “Lost” have something of a challenge. A virtual cottage industry dedicated to dissecting the program has sprung up online. There are fan sites, several weekly podcasts, and much much discussion — all fueled by the (mostly) weekly episodes of the series. Ahead: a summer hiatus that threatens to wreck the momentum (and the online user-generated marketing machine).

The answer? An alternate-reality game that will span the summer and hopefully give fans something to chat about online. It started on last week’s episode, when a TV spot aired during the show advertised the “Hanso Foundation” — an organization from the “Lost” universe — and gave a 1-800 number. Calling the number gave viewers access to various mysterious voicemail messages, apparently meant as clues. The TV spot (which was, interestingly, structured in such a way that I saw it despite skipping commercials using TiVo) also led them to thehansofoundation.org Web site, which houses the TV ad and gives one more clues.

A USA Today story about the phenomenon quotes Mike Benson, ABC marketing chief, as saying, “What the Hanso Foundation did was just the beginning of this thing.” Interesting stuff.

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