AOL Goes for the Gold With Online Treasure Hunt

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AOL said yesterday that it has signed Mark Burnett Productions to produce a reality treasure hunt to air exclusively at AOL.com. "Gold Rush!" is expected to provide both traditional sponsorship and interactive advertising opportunities.


The show will follow contestants as they search for hidden treasure across the United States. Clues to the whereabouts of the treasure will be planted throughout the AOL network, including AOL.com, AIM.com, Moviefone.com and MapQuest.com.


AOL has not released the launch date for the show, the number of contestants, prizes, the format of the show or financial details.


AOL spokeswoman Ann Burkart said the show is part of AOL's desire to create original content to differentiate it online. This programming provides a "unique experience online, beyond traditional experience of reading text and viewing pictures," she said.


AOL Music Sessions is a current example of the original content AOL produces for the Web. The Chevrolet-sponsored Music Sessions invites current artists into a music studio to perform exclusively for AOL music.


"Gold Rush!" will provide plenty of advertising opportunities, according to Burkart. It is likely that advertising will be integrated into the show through mechanisms like product placement. There also will be more traditional branding opportunities for the show's sponsors on the various AOL properties. The company said it will promote "Gold Rush!" through various media including television, print advertising and wireless.


The potential online market for advertisers is sizeable. The AOL online properties receive 110 million visitors every month, according to Burkart.


Mark Burnett Productions, which created "Survivor," "The Apprentice" and "Rock Star: INXS," will produce the content for the show.


"The world is changing, and the Internet is about to become the next broadcast network. With the volume of people able to watch content on their computers between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., it could very well become the new primetime," Burnett said in an AOL statement.


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