Oceanic Airlines Ad Campaign

April 13, 2008

In order to create buzz for the fourth season, in late 2007 the LOST creative released a series of viral advertisements for Oceanic Airlines, the fictional airline that appears in the show. The first part of the campaign involved issuing a press release stating that Oceanic has decided to reopen despite the fictional the crash of Flight 815 three years prior.

Below is a copy of the press release for downloading.

Oceanic Press Release

As you can see, the press release looks official and does not once mention LOST, ABC, or any of their affiliates. The purpose of this press release is to attract the attention of serious news outlets, only to eventually have them realize that Oceanic Airlines does not actually exist. Ultimately this press release will lead its audience back to the television show, whether the audience knows from prior knowledge that Oceanic is a Hollywood construct or whether they do research on the “company” and then find out the press release is actually a stunt by the LOST creative team. Either way, the press release draws attention to the show in the hopes of gathering more viewers and thus more commercial watchers and consumers.

The press release was only the first part of this advertising campaign. The next involved billboards along interstates in the nine cities listed in the press release. These cities have all been mentioned in the show itself and are listed below:

– Los Angeles, CA
– Tustin, CA
– Ames, IA
– Miami, FL
– New York, NY
– Portland, OR
– Knoxville, TN
– Seoul, South Korea
– Sydney, Australia

The highway billboard campaign was two-fold. First, the creative team released the original billboards, which featured pretty, pleasant, smiling female flight attendants in front of beautiful landscapes. The Oceanic logo and catch phrase “Taking you places you never imagined!” are also prominently displayed. This is the billboard that was placed in Portland, Oregon and advertises flights to Seoul, South Korea.

These billboards are not primarily marketed to fans of the show. Rather, like the press release, the billboards look real, authentic. People who have not necessarily even heard of LOST or Oceanic are expected to be drawn to the billboards and, if they’re flyers, to checking out this “new” airline that they had not heard of previously. Even casual fans may miss out on the connection between the advertisement for Oceanic and LOST. Obviously the major fans will identify the billboards as part of the LOST Experience, but even moderate fans should be able to see the relationship because of the Oceanic logo, which has become a huge LOST icon.

After these billboards were up for a few weeks, the creative team launched the second part of the billboard campaign. Now over the once pristine billboards was the website “find815.com” scrawled in a black graffiti-esque font.

Below is a picture of the Oceanic billboard in Knoxville, Tennessee, post-graffiti.

With the graffiti, the billboards took on a more subversive tone. Whereas before the intended audience was either families or professionals – those who take vacations or travel frequently for business – the intended audience then became a younger, hipper crowd, those who are likely to rebel against or disregard the status quo.

As with the press release, the billboards were meant to spark curiosity and ultimately attract more viewers the show. And a bigger viewing audience means a bigger consumer audience, which in turn means more advertisers wanting to spend money to showcase their products during the program.

The final part of the Oceanic Airlines advertising campaign thus far is a television commercial similar to the Hanso Foundation commercials during seasons two and three. However, instead of airing during a regular break during LOST, the Oceanic commercial aired during the television show Eli Stone, which is a new program that runs after LOST. Also unlike the Hanso commercials, the Oceanic commercial more boldly displays that it was paid for by ABC, and, well, you’ll have to watch it to see how else it’s different.

Aside from the text about ABC sponsoring the ad, the commercial seems authentic at first. It features the same attractive smiling flight attendants in beautiful landscapes from the billboards. Soon though, a scruffy, disheveled man breaks through the feed and says, “You can’t trust these people. Oceanic Flight 815 – we found it.” Similar to the billboards, the commercial at first attempts to legitimately attract consumers to its “product” but then subverts itself by having the man mysteriously break through the transmission with his cryptic message.

LOST fans and most television watchers in general would undoubtedly recognize Flight 815 if they hadn’t already recognized Oceanic itself, so the main purpose of the ad is to generate more excitement for the series and also to send fans to the websites flyoceanicair.com and find815.com. For those who had no idea what the commercial was about, the intended effect is to incite enough curiosity to lead them to at least the websites if not eventually to the show itself. The websites are also marketing tools, which leads us into the next section specifically about the plethora of LOST shell sites online.

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Hanso Exposed Website

April 13, 2008

Hanso Exposed Website

Appearing much like a game, the Hanso Exposed website lures visitors in with its futuristic Flash introductions. After giving away an email address and a password, the site allows the user to freely navigate the no longer working site. After logging in, the user is brought to the a page where they may enter in codes to uncover the supposed wrongs of the mysterious Hanso Corporation. There is a problem. There are no links to getting started and no help to provide users a means of recovering codes. The instructions ask the user to find glyphs which can be obtained for codes, but there is still no assistance from the website as to how to find any glyphs. The “questions” section to the right of the login section appears authentic as it provides a sort of FAQ and definitions area for those who may not be up to speed on the lingo or scenarios which unfolded during LOST. This is a great attempt to drag those ignorant of LOST into the loop.

Like the graffiti on the Oceanic Billboards, this site appeals to a younger more subversive audience. The purpose of the website appears to be to unmask the evils of the Hanso Foundation, which is part of a large conglomerate of corporations such as the Widmore Corp. and Paik Industries, and more rebellious, truth-seeking fans and potential fans can relate to bringing down large organizations who abuse their power. The irony of this is that LOST and this site are owned by ABC and Disney, one of the largest corporation blocks in America, and the website attempts to solicit e-mail addresses for profit. Moreover, this site is supported by even more corporations, as evident by links to the Sprite, Jeep, Monster.com, and Verizon websites.


Find 815 Website

April 13, 2008

Find 815 Website

Originally launched via the Oceanic Airlines billboards, the creative team set up this site as though it were the personal site of Sam, a fictional character whose fiancee Cindy was one of the flight attendants on the downed Flight 815. Sam was also the person who broke through the transmission of the Oceanic Airlines commercial. After becoming members of the site by submitting their e-mail addresses, users were able to play different chapters of Sam’s video blog about what “really” happened to the plane. At the end of each chapter, users also had to use their observation skills to answer questions and play games in order to advance to the next chapter.

Though the site was once extensive and popular, now it only boasts one page containing a picture of Sam and a photocopy of a page in his journal. The entry reads, “Not sleeping again. Something’s still not right. The reporters have stopped calling. Everyone is moving on. Flight 815 is a closed book for them. They think they have all the answers they need. But I don’t… S.T.” Sam’s journal is in reference to a plot point in the show where a news organization reported that Flight 815 was actually found at the bottom of the ocean with no known survivors. Fans of course know this is false, because most of the plane wreckage is located on the island, and the main characters are the survivors! This is the surface reason for the Find 815 website: for Sam to expose the lies about the plane in the ocean and to figure out who planted it there and why.

The Find 815 site is similar to the Hanso Exposed site. Both rely on subversive advertising, and appeal to fans of the show as well as potential fans who believe that there is often a discrepancy between appearance and reality. Furthermore, both also gather e-mail addresses, which generally implies that the addresses will be sold to other companies for spamming purposes. The sites also both perpetuate the mystery of the show, which is what keeps fans hooked and coming back for more. And as with any television show, the better the Nielsen Ratings, the more advertisers will want to advertise during that show’s commercial breaks — and they’ll spend more money to do so because the spots will be in higher demand.