National Lampoon DotCom Uses Satire to Attract New Generation

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National Lampoon DotCom, the Web extension of the magazine and radio show, is banking on its first full-fledged marketing campaign to entrench its "Animal House" brand with a new generation of 18- to 25-year-old males.


"This site gives us the opportunity to grow with these kids," said Debbie Dettling, the company's director of marketing. "We want the site to eventually appeal to all groups: college kids, people in their thirties and the baby boomers. The comedy will be spread out."


National Lampoon DotCom presented two round-trip tickets last week for the NCAA's Great Eight and Final Four championships. The contest was run in conjunction with National Lampoon DotCom's Fantasy Loser's League. In the Loser's League, participants earn points for their 11 drafted athletes' off-the-field troubles. The hottest current picks are boxer Mike Tyson and Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker. Since the promotion was announced a little over a month ago, entries into the league doubled from 3,000 to 6,000 teams.


"This league has really blown up since the contest started," said Dettling. "Though it is a satire of real fantasy leagues, the people joining are having fun and taking it very seriously. It has brought a lot of people to our site."


The company marketed the contest with banner ads and online sweepstakes. It tapped actor and writer Steve Walker to serve as commissioner. Walker gives weekly tallies on troubled athletes' recent exploits via a streaming video segment and has appeared on local and national radio, as well as on the ESPN Sports Network.


Because of the success of the Loser's League, National Lampoon DotCom is adding advanced graphics and statistics and will hold another contest for baseball tickets in coordination with the launch of the updated game later this month. Aiding in this and the NCAA contest is online ticket supplier TicketsUpFront.com, which specializes in filling orders for sold-out concerts and events.


"This was the perfect marketing agreement for us," said Jeff Greenfield, vice president of online sales and business development for TicketsUpFront.com. "Our target markets gel perfectly. We have the same type of 'Animal House' crazy fans who have a need for tickets they can't get anywhere else."


National Lampoon DotCom has been up since late October, but Dettling said that the company waited until a sturdy base of brand-loyal visitors became accustomed to the content before any targeted marketing campaign was launched.


To appeal to baby boomers, its second-strongest demographic, National Lampoon DotCom will soon run a contest in support of its "Flashbacks" area. The comedy trivia contest will be marketed in much the same way as the Loser's League. Dettling said this area is one of the most popular on the site because it features comedy from greats like Jim Belushi and Gilda Radner that this older market grew up with, recognize and often return to.


The site also set up a pavilion in Panama City Beach, FL, for students on spring break. The pavilion went up March 5 and closed March 25, when the headlining Baywatch Search ended. There, people could see online site demonstrations and get promotional items such as hats and T-shirts. At a booth in the pavilion and every day during live stage shows, people recorded "confessionals" that were later Webcast. At the event the site taped more than 100 confessionals that online visitors can view and vote to "condemn" or "absolve" at the "Online Confessionals" area.


Dettling said that site advertiser The Sci-Fi Channel found the promotion compatible enough with its new "Good & Evil" show that it decided in the midst of spring break to be the sole sponsor of the beach event, online content area and a subsequent grassroots college tour of the stage show just getting under way.


Dettling added a future promotion sponsored by Rolling Stone magazine and targeted toward college-aged males would roll out at the start of the new school year in September.
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