The Playboy mogul has not only been dumped by his head bunny Holly (apparently being number one of a dozen is much the same as being one in a dozen after all) but he’s also watching his porn empire’s profits droop so dramatically that not even Viagra would help.
Enter Tesco, bearers of the slogan “Every little helps” to give old Hef a small bit of assistance. The grocery chain has bought the rights to the Playboy mobile phone in Ireland.
So the senior citizen of sleaze gets a few bob, Tesco get an exclusive product and the customer gets... Well, here’s the question — what does the customer get out of this?
The phone, an Alcatel C707, is pretty standard apart from its bright pink shiny shell embossed with angel wings, fake fleur-de-lis and of course, several Playboy bunny logos.
It takes photos, stores MP3s and records video but then so does just about every model from the Fisher Price range up.
Priced between €54.99 and €74.99 it’s at the budget end of the buyers market so maybe that’s an attraction but there’s already plenty of choice at that price level. So what it really offers is a bit of fun, a bit of bling and a fragile but coveted link to the carefree life of hedonism lived in the luxurious Playboy Mansion under the Los Angeles sun.
At least that’s what the marketing department want people to think. The guy who raised his hand at the brainstorming session and suggested the phone actually conjured up images of barely legal teens with breast implants living in a harem with an octogenarian lech who sells their naked pictures was last seen flipping burgers at McDonald’s.
It’s all about perception and clever manipulation, and the brains behind the Playboy brand breed cleverness like bunnies.
Their phone will be to 12-year-old girls what a foil wrapper is to a magpie.
They’ll see it, they’ll want it and, if past sales of school stationery, duvet covers and toiletries bearing the Playboy logo are anything to go by, they’ll get it.
The phone, lest Tesco be reaching for their lawyers’ phone number, is not directly targeted at kids but as Niall Muldoon, clinical director with CARI (Children at Risk in Ireland), points out: “It’s not going to be the university student or the career woman who buys it.”
CARI has been outspoken before about the early sexualisation of young girls through marketing campaigns that carry mixed messages and Mr Muldoon says the issue needs repeated highlighting.
“These companies know the strength of pester power and if they make something pink and cute, it’s going to have a very strong appeal to that whole tween world of 10- to 14-year-olds.
“Our concern is that it’s a ploy to bring Playboy into the general marketing arena so kids are influenced by it and by the time they are a little bit older, the Playboy image seems a lot softer to them. It brings sexuality to a younger market.
“Even if the child is innocent about what it really means, their parents should be aware of it and resist it.”
As anyone who opened their door to trick or treaters and found an eight-year-old Playboy bunny will know, parents are not always aware or willing to resist.
Tesco aren’t making it any easier for them. Their spokespeople pointed out the phone was only one of a whole range on offer by Tesco Mobile and stressed the Playboy trademark was widely available on a large range of goods stocked by many different stores.
The phone, along with others in the Tesco range, comes with a buy one, get one free deal on top-up cards.
Funnily enough, Hugh Hefner, who is replacing Holly with identical twins, Kristina and Karissa, espouses the same philosophy.
He will be touched.