Markets:The Dude is Not in

Markets Focus-The Dude is Not inThe post-lad, post-Jackass, post-post-modern man

How stupid do you really want to look in public? That's the question that confronts today's man as he moves from adolescence to manhood. Because not much is private anymore, is it? Maybe this is why the Dude demo - men 18 to 35 - has softened. You can see it in the work of Kevin Smith, the auteur of the Dude zeitgeist. The anomie of his clerks has mellowed into a quest for connection that can actually be fulfilled: Zack and Miri start to make a porno, and end up falling in love. Bros can admit they love each other; straight guys admit to man crushes.

This creates new opportunities for advertisers; if the Dude is open to more genuine bonds with women and other men, maybe his engagement with the brand will be more than a one-night stand., AOL's lifestyle channel for men, aims for the middle ground between the guffaws and leers of the laddie mags and the earnestly upscale consumerism of the glossies. "While Asylum certainly covers all the things a guy is interested in, including some not so highbrow topics, we aim to avoid the embarrassing lowbrow nature of how those topics are expressed - like by some of the lad magazines," says managing director Jared Willig. "The Asylum audience is your more average guy who knows he's not the suavest guy in the room but he's still confident in himself, what he's passionate about, and his opinions and judgments."

In other words, he's able to take advertising's idealized male images with a grain of salt. Like the majority of women who have to learn to accept that they will never weigh 98 pounds, these guys have learned to have fun with the feasible. This translates to an audience that tends to be open-minded, intelligent and forward-thinking, according to Willig. The site covers a wide range of topics, from comics to cars, along with sex, dating, sports and humor. But everything is given an ironic gloss. For example, the illustration for "A Guy's Guide to Etiquette" is not a male model but a shaven-headed bruiser making a mustache with a sprig of rosemary.

While the site is chock full of sponsored links, Willig says the best opportunity for advertisers is creating custom content that doesn't make this audience feel sold-to. For example, Asylum teamed with Axe to promote its new line of hair-care products. The campaign was designed to remind young guys that their hair influences their ability to meet women. It tied in with a tv spot in which male models in bad wigs were rebuffed by women - implying subtly that the only thing standing between our average guy and babes could be the hair. It's an inclusive message: Even the most gorgeous guys can get the chill from women. And it's not much different from the tying-in of grooming and romance by women's products. The promotion wrapped the brand around a month-long series of dating tips leading up to Valentine's Day.

Also around Valentine's Day, Burger King rereleased Flame, a body spray "with a hint of flame-broiled meat." The cologne, available for $3.95 online and in Ricky's stores in New York, sold out during the holiday gift rush, with spray cans reportedly selling for up to $75 on eBay.

The campaign and product, created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, have been revitalized with fire, a microsite that features a montage of romantic scenes, culminating in a shot of the King lounging in a heart-shaped bubble bath, pouring champagne over his hairy chest while a Barry White sound-alike croons. The punch line: "Behold the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat."

"The thinking was that, during holiday time, there's so much clutter. How does a fast food company stay relevant?" says Rob Reilly, partner and coexecutive creative director for CP+B. "You don't sell the burger, you sell the sizzle."

Cheetos partnered with Facebook application developer Slide to sponsor Katalysthq, a Web series that takes a look behind the scenes at Ashton Kutcher's Hollywood production company. True to our always-on-camera lives, the series is semi-scripted, allowing viewers to watch Kutcher and friends behaving somewhat naturally within situations that may not be natural at all.

Katalyst Media came to Slide to develop the series, which is shown through Slide's FunSpace application in Facebook, according to Slide's director of business development Jared Fliesler, and then the two companies worked together to find a brand that made sense, ultimately bringing in omd, the Frito Lay brand's media agency. "It's true brand integration. You have people eating Cheetos snacks and using them in alternative ways," Fliesler says.

The Webisodes feature Katalyst's pencil-necked crew fooling around with Cheetos and each other. The production values are nonexistent, the "acting" is intro-to-improv, and the situations are completely goofy. In the second episode, the staff tries to get Kutcher ready for a role as an assassin by attacking him, for example, with a Cheetos-branded Frisbee bomb.

The Dude has finally figured out that women are a lot like him. "There's definitely a more tongue-in-cheek sensibility developing," says Omelet cofounder Steven Amato. "People are more attracted to the girl in Juno than to women fighting over a bottle of beer in a fountain. People's sensibilities are deepening."

To draw in new viewers, while engaging fans for the second season of usa Network's thriller Burn Notice, Omelet LA created Covert Ops, a nine-week, episodic online video game that lets players work alongside the show's characters. The game also extended the show's on-air integration deal with Saab to the digital medium. Game play is designed to appeal to Burn Notice's core audience of men, but it has elements of casual gaming, such as puzzles, that also appeal to women.

That's not to say that sex and women are not still central to reaching this audience; they just need a lighter, smarter touch. While Covert Ops 2 does include a woman in a bikini, Amato hurries to point out that it makes sense for the plot. "You have to embrace the inevitable," he says. "Dudes love boobs. But it doesn't have to objectify women. Give the woman with boobs a goddamn story arc."

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