So, there I was. Reading another wonderfully silly entry from Crazy Aunt Purl, just minding my own business. Then I saw it. An ad (see right) that caught my attention. A woman desperately seeking her husband, who was kidnapped on Sunday, May 20th. Now, I don't know if it was some sort of morbid curiosity or an actual desire to somehow get involved (I'm strongly leaning towards the former), but I clicked the ad. Just for funsies. What I found was not so fun.
The ad takes you to a website, which at first glance, appears to be a website created by a (rather websavvy) woman, and possibly her son, who are trying to find the kidnapped man. It includes a video from her, pleading for help, and offering a $25,000 reward, to be split evenly between whomever can provide information that leads to her husband's safe return. I then noticed the strange inclusion of a Court TV label up in the page's header (the video started right away when I opened the site, so I watched it before actually looking at anything else). What? Why is Court TV advertising on this woman's website?
Then I read her little opening letter, which tells you how to register join the investigation, and that there is a deadline of June 4th. What? She has a deadline on how long she's willing to investigate her husband's kidnapping? I started to think things were a little fishy, and scrolled down to the bottom of the page, where I found the following:
Enter Court TV's 8 Day Mystery Challenge. See Official Rules. $25,000 prize will be shared among all eligible entrants who solve the mystery. Ends 6:00 am ET on June 12, 2007.
All character names, company names, and pharmaceutical names are fictional. Any evidence to the contrary is completely inadvertent.
Further research (erm, Googling) led me to some articles from the people at Court TV who made it sound like this is an experimental new show--audiences watch Court TV (all day long, presumably) looking for clues that appear in the lower corners of the screen. The clues can appear at any time, during shows or commercials (so don't leave the room during commercial breaks, people!). You use the clues, as well as clues on the website, to try to figure out where Andrew Goodis (the missing person) is. The winner/s split the $25,000 pot. Court TV has pulled out all the stops...you can do a Google search for Andrew Goodis (put it in quotes for better results) and find a (fake) pharmaceutical company, complete with executive committee bios, job listings, product information, and a few years' worth of company history, in convenient little blog-like entries. Someone got paid to come up with this stuff. Someone's job was to create fake people and a fake company, and make it look legit--though each website bears the disclaimer that "This website is not intended for medical emergencies. Please dial 9-1-1 in case of emergency," as well as the aforementioned information about the 8 Day Mystery Challenge.
I think it's like one of those internet scavenger hunts or puzzles (addictive!!!), only they're trying to tie in a reality TV-type aspect to it...and people these days (myself included; I'm a big Law and Order: SVU fan) are really into solving mysteries. So that's kind of fun I guess.
However, I don't know what I think about this. On the one hand, it's brilliant marketing (probably). This will get tons of people tuning in (or at least doing extensive internet searches) for information on Andrew Goodis and his kidnappers, trying to solve the mystery. Inadvertently, they will be exposed to countless ads and plugs for various Court TV shows as well. Which I'm sure is the whole reason this exists. Blah blah, corporate evil, blah blah and all that, whatever. That's not really my issue with it. Mostly, it rubs me the wrong way because the initial ad that draws you in makes it seem like there's a real woman out there turning to the internet to help find her husband. Something about that feels wrong to me.
BUT, like I said...it's pretty brilliant marketing. Very complicated and involved--without even registering for the "game," I was exposed to ads from Applebees, Suzuki and CourtTV, and I'm sure others that I didn't even notice--which I'm sure only multiply once you register.