A Cable-TV Show Is in Your Future

Showtime ads wind up inside fortune cookies in New York

During the last two weeks in June, Manhattan egg-roll-ites had to make their lottery picks without any help from the lucky numbers inside that familiar sugary sage, the fortune cookie. In their place was a pitch for the June 27 premiere of Dead Like Me, a drama on Showtime about a girl’s afterlife experience as a grim reaper.

“The theme of the show is basically about fortune and destiny and how it takes a twist and turn in people’s lives,” says Mark Hughes, owner of Buzzmarketing in Media, Pa. “[Showtime] thought fortune cookies would tie into that really well.”

The Showtime deal is Buzzmarketing’s first success. In November, Hughes, a former vp of marketing for eBay, bought the rights to nearly 7 million fortune-cookie slips nationwide from a number of distributors. Although the space for ads on them is meager – there is room for less type than in a classified ad – Hughes says one piece of research is particularly sweet: Nearly two-thirds of fortunes are read aloud. “Word of mouth is, bar none, the most powerful form of marketing out there,” he says.

Of course, Hughes doesn’t just want to work with fortunes – he wants to make one. So he’s expanding his empire, buying the rights to fortunes inside some 2 million takitos – cinnamon-flavored after-dinner treats favored in Mexican restaurants. The target this time is Hispanics, mostly in Chicago, California and Texas. “In terms of Hispanics new to this country, their brand preferences are somewhat malleable,” he says. “Once they do form the brand preference, they’re very brand loyal.”

Can ads inside the magic eight ball be far off?