A while back, some of my Adweek colleagues and I were sitting around the lunch table wondering how the producers of ABC’s Lost could work in some kind of product placement. Considering the island’s remote location, marooning a random tube of Crest toothpaste along with the castaways would stick out as a ham-fisted attempt. This week, we got our answer. While playing back the second in a series of ads for the mysterious Hanso Foundation, the organization behind the series’ mysterious Dharma Initiative, I saw a tiny piece of script in the corner of several frames that reads, “Paid for by Jeep.” Being a pasty-faced blogger with little to do, I decided to investigate the Web site that this week’s ad pointed viewers to. (HINT: Get past the compass screen by clicking around the 4 o’clock area outside the graphic. Then answer the prompt question with "Y".) Buried deep in the bowels of letyourcompassguideyou.com are not only a cancelled contract between DaimlerChrysler and Hanso for 23 Jeep vehicles, but also what appears to be a WW II-era ad for Jeep (pictured above) and a link to this early ’80s-looking TV spot for the Jeep CJ7 Hatch, a forerunner to the Wrangler. Were this any other show, Lost fans would likely be disappointed by what could have been a labyrinthine route to a couple of ads. But instead, there were clues buried within the Jeep print ad, signatures by various members of Hanso’s board on the contracts and sly references to Hanso’s sinister deeds made by Jeep executive William T. Kirkpatrick. (I won’t get into all my theories here, but I will ask: Could Hanso’s director of communications Hugh McIntyre—who appeared to be absent on corporate picture day—be The Others’ mysterious bearded man and "the mouthpiece?") It’s the most sophisticated product placement I’ve seen yet. Hats off to Lost and Jeep for drawing me in for 45 minutes and making it time well spent.
—Posted by Deanna Zammit