Dispatch and Tit-Bits treasure hunts
June 24, 2009 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Secret London has the story of a circulation promotion gimmick that runs awry.
posted by tellurian (19 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
KYNG-FM in Fort Worth did something like this several years ago; they hid $100 in a library book, then announced it on the air. The DJ said later that he wanted to promote reading. Unshelving ensued.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:14 PM on June 24, 2009

Well done for digging this up, tellurian.
posted by Abiezer at 5:24 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

This reminded me of the 1979 treasure hunt book Masquerade that intrigued me at the time. Of course I didn't go around digging up peoples' yards - but then I also live in the US, so I was way out of treasure range even if I had been that rabid. And the supposed winner of that hunt turned out to have cheated - so the story got even more interesting in a "wait a minute, what?!" sort of way.

Then I bumped into this story in The Ottawa Citizen from 2006, Children's book offers $2M treasure hunt: 'Eccentric' author provides clues to rings hidden around world

"The rewards of reading will take on new meaning with the release of a puzzle book whose fairy-tale clues point to $2 million U.S. in jewels.

The Sept. 26 launch of Secrets of the Alchemist Dar is expected to spark the most lucrative treasure hunt in literary history as readers around the world pore over the text and illustrations for clues leading to 100 rings. The loot could be hidden anywhere -- from Canada to all points beyond -- or it may be accessible in some other cryptic way.

...To avoid the out-of-control digging frenzy that marked Masquerade's hunt -- and, indeed, a 1981 Citizen contest in which the newspaper hid a quantity of gold -- Mr. Stadther is repeating what he said about the treasure in his first book: He's buried nothing. He also said the rings are "not in a place of danger, nor are they under water, in a remote location or in a cave.""

This wikipedia page has both the solved and unsolved puzzles - I'm sure there're more sites out there. But from the note that "None of the 100 rings are known to have been claimed" - I have to wonder if they even existed.

What I'm now REALLY curious about - how much do these treasure hunt gimmicks increase sales? And would people have bought the books/newspapers even without the treasure? Also...anyone recommend any books or articles on this? I haven't googled much more - but this whole "use a treasure to sell" thing fascinates me. And it seems like a book could be written on just the times newspapers and radio stations have pulled the "find the treasure item we've hidden locally" stunt.
posted by batgrlHG at 6:11 PM on June 24, 2009

Sounds like a good way to get my garden plowed next year.
posted by bitslayer at 6:22 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nice link tellurian.

Google can't find it for me, but there was a similar treasure hunt in Australia in the 1970's where a book of clues was published to find some buried gold bullion. As far as I know it was never solved. My parents had the book, all I remember about it was that it had an MC Escher picture on the cover. Anyone?
posted by girlgenius at 6:34 PM on June 24, 2009

from article: “From an early hour on Saturday night to late on Sunday night, various parts of the Manchester suburbs were the resort of men, women and children, people of all classes, drunk and sober…

Then as now, Manchester was ahead of its time—precisely as it is today.
posted by koeselitz at 6:34 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

You are a maker of quality posts, and I claim my five pounds.
posted by zamboni at 6:47 PM on June 24, 2009 [6 favorites]

Has anyone informed the Sulzbergers?
posted by Diablevert at 7:04 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Microsoft has a similar promotion running in Australia.
posted by GeckoDundee at 7:52 PM on June 24, 2009

This reminds me of the promotion around "Personal Effects:Dark Arts", a book by J.C. Hutchins that I just read about today and thought was interesting. He worked with an ARG designer to come up with an alternate reality around the book, and is giving away stuff to give you an incentive to buy the book (complete with items to use in the ARG, which I thought was neat). I wonder if we will see more of these kinds of "treasure hunt" experiences surrounding promotions of goods like books and music.
posted by gemmy at 8:19 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Secret London appears to be a subsection of Planet Slade which also offers Murder Ballads (coming soon: "Knoxville Girl's UK roots!") and more, generally in the same long-form narrative essay seen in the Trench Warfare link. Great link, and Mr. Slade is clearly of our ilk.
posted by mwhybark at 9:54 PM on June 24, 2009

"With God as my witness, I thought turkey's could fly!"

posted by brykmantra at 10:19 PM on June 24, 2009

If I ran the Daily Mail - that is, if I ran the Daily Mail and could actually overcome the shame and get myself out from under the covers - I'd run a competition where random acts of kindness or community spirit (picking up litter, helping old ladies cross the road etc) would be rewarded by a secret agent from the newspaper handing out £50 notes.

Let's say it costed £2k a day, or ~£600k per year. It would be money well spent for the PR and the sight of people rushing to engage in acts of goodwill would be a welcome change.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:30 AM on June 25, 2009 [4 favorites]

MuffinMan: Unfortunately that's not how the Daily Mail keeps its circulation up these days.

See also: The Daily Mail-o-Matic. (Requires Javascript.)
posted by cstross at 3:38 AM on June 25, 2009

Fascinating article, thanks. Brings to mind Pimania as well as the previously mentioned "Kit Williams' Masquerade"...
posted by benzo8 at 4:18 AM on June 25, 2009

I've hidden a $50 prize in one of my comments, which will go to the first person to favorite it.
posted by EarBucket at 6:01 AM on June 25, 2009

As a circulation director, I plan on implementing this promotional idea as soon as possible. This area could use a little more mayhem!

Actually, what's funny about this story from 100 years ago is how much the Dispatch's plan resembles promotions that are still being run by newspapers today.

Newspapers: If it works (or we think it might), why change it?
posted by dellsolace at 6:42 AM on June 25, 2009

GeckoDundee: Microsoft has a similar promotion running in Australia.

from ‘promotion’ link: We've buried $10,000 somewhere on the internet and the first one to find it, gets to keep it.

Hey, I found it! All I had to do was build a skeevy botnet, take control of a few hundred computers and steal some credit card numbers, auto-withdrawing random amounts and dumping the money into several dummy accounts before closing them and withdrawing the money a few hours later!

Thanks, Microsoft!
posted by koeselitz at 7:52 AM on June 25, 2009

Odd that we've got this far and no one had mentioned the Saint Paul Winter Carnival's annual medallion hunt, sponsored for lo this past century and more by the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. They had some similar episodes of disruptive hunters in past years and of late have taken pains to ensure all are aware that the medallion is never placed on private property.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 11:01 AM on June 25, 2009

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