Hef Joins Online Advertising Party

Pop-ups. Pop-unders. Page takeovers. And now, Hugh Hefner.

As Web publishers tinker with fresh advertising gimmicks, New York-based Playboy.com is using the untiring swinger to plug the Jack Daniel’s whiskey brand.

Before getting to view content, visitors to the Playboy.com must sit through a 15-second Flash-enabled advertisement with an animated Hefner touting the virtues of a “simple life,” complete with private jets, half-naked blondes and a glass of Jack Daniel’s.

A Playboy.com spokesman said the full screen “mega-ad,” which was created in-house, would run for one month. “We’re working on some new things to give value to our advertisers,” he said. Hef will be putting in a few appearances.”

In the Jack Daniel’s campaign, an animated likeness of the 75-year-old Hefner (complete with his own voice) says: “You know, I’ve always enjoyed a relatively simple life. A comfortable home reliable transportation, food on the table and a meaningful relationship. And, of course, Jack Daniel’s. Welcome to Playboy.com.”

The ad contains photographs of Hefner’s infamous Playboy mansion, a private jet, a limousine, a lavish food spread, and more than a half-dozen buxom blondes. At the end, a glass and bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey drops down from the top of the screen.

For Playboy.com, which makes money mostly from subscription-based multi-media offerings, the new ad format is in keeping with the move by Web publishers to jazz up online advertisements.

These experiments are growing increasingly popular among Web publishers as they seek new ways to make online advertising attractive to traditional advertisers — amidst a slump in advertising in general and Internet advertising in particular. Incorporating larger ad formats, sound, and movement gives ad agencies more room for creativity and, it is thought, opportunity to create a brand impact.

While the jury is still out on the effectiveness of new ad formats like skyscrapers, pop-ups, pop-unders and page takeovers, Playboy.com takes it a step further, forcing visitors to view the Jack Daniel’s ad before gaining access to the home page. This type of advertisement moves Internet advertising in the direction of television commercials, because the user must look at an ad before getting to the content.

“Yes, it is the ad before the page view but, once a visitor has seen the Jack Daniel’s, it won’t appear again,” the spokesman said, explaining that cookie technology would ensure the ad won’t be served to an IP address more than once.

A link to the ad has been prominently placed on the Playboy.com main page and other banner ads for Jack Daniel’s appear at different pages on the site. With the viral marketing concept in mind, Playboy.com said the ad could also be downloaded and emailed.

Spending on the campaign was not disclosed.

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