Ad Report Card

Show Us Your Tats

Golden Palace’s experiment in nude branding.

During the final round of the U.S. Open, a woman approached golfer Jim Furyk on the 11th hole. She was topless. By any standard—and certainly by the standards of golf—this was an interesting development. But there’s more. Written across the half-naked woman’s back was a URL: The online casino was practicing marketing in the raw.

Is this a good idea? I don’t mean public nudity; I mean public nudity as branding tactic. And I raise the question because this seems to be a core part of Golden Palace’s current strategy. Earlier this month, another branded streaker flashed through the French Open. And last month the same guy, who apparently runs nude through public events on a regular basis, did so at the UEFA Cup soccer final in Seville, Spain, again sporting the Golden Palace address.

Earlier, Golden Palace had used the temporary tattoo gambit on boxers. A middleweight named Bernard Hopkins had one (until his sweat washed it away) in a bout against Felix Trinidad in September 2001. This sparked various wrangles between the casino and boxing authorities; later, ESPN threatened to fine boxers who carried the tats in fights the cable network televised. Golden Palace nevertheless paid a number of boxers to serve as human billboards over the course of the past year or so—including Danny Bonaduce and some other participants in a Fox “celebrity boxing” show—and claimed a surge in hits as a result.

The thinking on that strategy seems straightforward—it’s a way of sneaking a brand mention in front of a broadcast audience by merely paying a fighter $10,000 or maybe $50,000, which is a lot less than a real ad would cost. But extending the campaign to streaking—whose whole history is intertwined with publicity-seeking—seems a little odd, given that one of the few things that’s less likely to be broadcast on the evening news than a naked person is a naked person slathered with ads. And, indeed, even the print news stories I read about the streaker stunts scrupulously avoided mentioning

But I think the casino may have had an epiphany when it switched its human billboards from a pasty, paunchy bloke to a trim, blond hottie: The latter’s picture lingered near the top of Yahoo!’s most-e-mailed page for much of last week. Golden Palace also posted its own page of risqué photos of the woman. I won’t link to it, for various reasons, but the extremely popular Web site Fark did, drawing thousands of hits and a spirited discussion among more than 100 Farkers about the woman and whether or not she is actually a porn star, among other things.

None of which would mean much if the brand under discussion here didn’t happen to be Web-based. For an Internet casino, getting in front of a lot of heavy Internet users is obviously not a bad thing, and the way it came about was probably a lot cheaper than, say, buying ad time during a golf tournament. There is of course nothing to admire about any of this, with its how-low-can-you-go aesthetic. But this is a case where admiration simply isn’t the goal. You could say that the online casino is instead relying on an extreme version of a very old promotional theory: All exposure is good exposure.