Site ties its fortunes to cookies

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Millions of diners at Chinese restaurants next month may find their fortunes lead them to create reality TV series.

Buzzmarketing is owner of ad space on the backs of about a quarter of the missives stuffed into fortune cookies served at Chinese restaurants in the U.S., and will help launch a "Hollywood Pitch and Win" contest in June. For the contest, entrants will vie to pitch their reality TV concepts to real Hollywood producers.

The fortune-cookie ads are the primary medium behind launch of TVBuzz.com, a Web site from 1st Approach, which built its reputation by using online message board postings to spread buzz about "The Blair Witch Project" in 1999. Now, TVBuzz aims to become a central portal for online message boards about reality TV programming, according to 1st Approach Exec VP Jeff Greenfield.

His goal is to turn contest entrants into regular visitors to TVBuzz message boards, which 1st Approach will in turn use to discreetly plant favorable postings about new shows from client networks.

"Hollywood Pitch and Win" is the most ambitious project yet for Buzzmarketing's fortune-cookie medium, which made its debut in November and also has served up ads for Snapple, said Buzzmarketing CEO Mark Hughes.

Mr. Hughes said fortune readers fall disproportionately in the 18-34 demographic and are big consumers of movies, wireless telecom, alcoholic beverages and consumer electronics. Buzzmarketing research shows 96% of people read their fortunes, and 67% of people talk about them.

instant chatter

TVBuzz is counting on such instant chatter when 30 million diners crack open their cookies next month. "I bet every person has one or more great [reality TV] ideas rolling around in their heads," said Mr. Greenfield. He said he came up with the idea for the contest when dining with some heavyset friends who told him they couldn't relate to Fox's "The Bachelorette," but would like a dating reality series centered on heavier people.

"It's got to be done tastefully," Mr. Hughes said, and not offend the 5,000 participating restaurants. He recently rejected an ad proposed for the Papa John's pizza chain with the message: "Wouldn't you rather have had pizza?"

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