Clues to Hidden Gold Bullion Embedded in Ads on CBS

Mark Burnett 'Gold Rush' Contest Pioneers New TiVo-Proof Strategies

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In recent years one of Mark Burnett's biggest successes, "The Apprentice," has been criticized for being "one giant commercial," thanks to its never-ending parade of product placement.
More than $2 million in gold in 13 armored trucks has been hidden around the country for Mark Burnett's new reality show, 'Gold Rush.'
More than $2 million in gold in 13 armored trucks has been hidden around the country for Mark Burnett's new reality show, 'Gold Rush.' Credit: AOL

But in his latest production, "Gold Rush," the king of reality TV will be more overt. More than $2 million in gold was recently hidden across the country, and to track down the treasure, viewers will be asked to spot clues on AOL.com and in CBS programming -- as well as in actual commercials airing on the Eye network. CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler gave advertisers the opportunity to embed clues in their ads this week during the network's upfront presentation.

More media partners
She called it an "exciting new marketing promotion." And while AOL.com is the entity selling sponsorships for the show, it has agreed that only ads aired on CBS will contain clues. The Web giant is also working on lining up other media partners for print and radio.

The pitch to advertisers to embed clues in their ads takes advantage of a larger trend in which marketers try to make their commercials TiVo-proof by asking consumers to actively participate in the ads. Coca-Cola yesterday unveiled new creative work promoting its Sprite brand, touting the commercials as "DVR ready" (viewers are tempted to record and replay them to discover embedded content). That follows an earlier campaign from KFC that asked viewers to record spots and play them back slowly to discern a hidden message that rewards them with a coupon for a free chicken sandwich.

13 armored trucks
The premise behind "Gold Rush" is that 12 armored trucks containing $100,000 in gold and one truck carrying $1 million in gold are hidden in different locations throughout the country. CBS programs, AOL.com and commercials on CBS will contain clues to help viewers find the treasure. "Gold Rush" is produced by Mark Burnett Productions.

"Gold Rush" is essentially a mass-market take on an increasingly popular style of online gaming, in which viewers participate in both online in-game experiences and a real-world hunt. These viral games have primarily been used as marketing platforms, and CBS said that's primarily what "Gold Rush" will be for its new fall schedule. But there's clear opportunity for advertisers to play a larger role in such executions as they search for new ways to incite viewers to watch their ads.
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