|Durex condoms are being marketed with podcast product placements.
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Podcasting is a new medium that uses the Internet to distribute radio-like audio files for downloading into iPods and other MP3 players. The digital distribution system operates outside of the Federal Communications Commission's regulatory jurisdiction.
Although it only emerged as a viable mass medium within the last six months, podcasting is already a craze among younger "digerati." The new entertainment technology has also quickly drawn mainstream advertisers like General Motors Corp. An estimated 22 million Americans have iPods or MP3 players that can play podcast audio files.
Durex last month launched an unusual brand integration campaign featuring unscripted X-rated banter on the �The Dawn and Drew Show,� the No. 2 podcast as currently ranked by visitors to PodcastAlley.com. Dawn and Drew are a Wisconsin husband and wife team whose freewheeling audio files are now distributed almost instantly to younger listeners around the country as well as the world.
Durex is a division of SSL Americas, a subsidiary of SSL International of the U.K. Its U.S. operations are headquartered in Norcross, Ga.
Spending more hours online
�The 18 to 24 [year old] segment is the first generational wave where we�re really starting to see the impact of broadband,� said Liz Daney, senior vice president and chief media officer for Interpublic Group of Cos.' Fitzgerald & Co., Atlanta, which arranged the Durex podcast buy. �It�s the first group where they�re spending more hours online than they are with TV.�
Podcasting gives Durex �a way to demonstrate the brand in a way that�s very, very relevant,� she said. �We could have the product actively being used. We�re showing it exactly as we want to position the brand, as fun, as playful and sensual.�
And tasty. On the first podcast originally uploaded last month, Dawn and Drew and their dog, Hercules, put various samples from a Durex variety pack to the taste test. In a subsequent show, they tried a new line of tingling lubricants.
Avoiding FCC fines
�Those are things that in these days traditional media are just very, very prudish about,� Ms. Daney said. �Nobody wants to get slapped with an FCC fine. ... The thing about condoms is that young adults look at them and are kind of concerned about how they�re going to feel, and they�re a little embarrassed to spend a lot of time in front of the store display. By showing people interacting with the brand makes it seem like something you don�t need to be embarrassed about.�
She termed the investment �incredibly small,� though she didn�t provide details. Even so, she said the first appearance by Durex tripled hits to its Web site from an admittedly low base during a period of no other brand advertising.
�We�ve always got TV on the radar,� said Ted Conley, vice president of consumer marketing of Durex, but for now he believes, radio, integration into online gaming and emerging media like podcasts make more sense.
Foul-mouthed audio show
He has himself gotten hooked on Dawn and Drew, a kinder, gentler yet even more foul-mouthed take on such radio-cum-satellite personalities as Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony. Mr. Conley now makes room on his packed 40-gigabyte iPod for regular downloads of the Dawn and Dave podcasts.
�Particularly since this has been an underground medium, we don�t want to take it too commercial too fast or transform it into something it isn�t,� he said, so Durex never considered running a conventional radio spot on the podcast. �We want to craft the message so it fits into the show.�
He also likes the ease of doing podcast deals. �We did the negotiations with Drew,� he said. �There aren�t a lot of advertisers knocking at their door.�