The ABC television network and sister publishing label Hyperion Books are taking the concept of product placement into a new direction — by turning an imaginary product into a real one.
Producers of ABC’s mega-hit castaway thriller “Lost” plan to introduce a new storyline centering on the discovery of a fictitious manuscript that will become the basis for a real-life novel that Hyperion will publish this spring.
The book will then be promoted as the work of an author, named Gary Troup, who supposedly delivered the manuscript to Hyperion days before perishing in the show’s stage-setting event, a plane crash that maroons a group of survivors on a spooky island.
Plans for the convoluted cross-promotion, first reported Tuesday by Hollywood trade publication Daily Variety, were confirmed by a spokeswomen for Hyperion and production studio Touchstone Television, which like ABC, are owned by the Walt Disney Co.
Advertisers have increasingly explored novel product-placement schemes in the face of new technologies that allow TV viewers to skip over conventional commercials when watching their favorite shows.
But Variety said the “Lost” book tie-in may be the first to use imaginary TV events and characters as the basis for a real-life marketing campaign.
As part of the plan, Hyperion said it has commissioned a “well-known” mystery writer to anonymously adapt the fictitious manuscript into an actual, printed book it hopes will automatically appeal to the show’s large and loyal following.
“Fans of the show are obsessive. We think a lot of them will be buying the book just to look for clues” to the series, Hyperion President Bob Miller told Variety.
The “Lost” novel, titled “Bad Twin,” is described as a private eye mystery about a wealthy heir’s search for his evil sibling.
“Lost,” one of the several surprise hits that helped ABC bounce back from a lengthy ratings slump last season, currently ranks as the fourth most-watched show on television, averaging more than 20 million viewers a week.