Playboy Seeks Sexy Yet Clothed 'Miss Mobile'

Searching for the sexiest woman in the United States isn't new for Playboy Enterprises, except when the beauty must wear clothes. The brand, known for beautiful nudes in seductive positions, invites women 18 years and older to enter the Playboy Mobile competition.

The slight departure from Playboy's traditional pictorial spreads, accepting and posting only photos of clothed contestants, aims to highlight lifestyles and aspirations rather than body parts. The strategy to find Miss Playboy Mobile 2008 could broaden and boost the icon's online audience and increase the amount of content sold and downloaded from its mobile site.

At least that's what Ed Lang hopes. The senior vice president and general manager for Playboy Mobile, International and Online says the challenge was to "design an appealing contest that would get many women to participate, while making it easy for men to cast their vote."

The mobile strategy could offset losses in print. Earlier this month, Playboy Enterprises posted an unexpected fourth-quarter revenue loss of $1.1 million, or 3 cents per share, compared with a profit of $3.7 million or 11 cents per share in the previous year. Sales fell slightly to $85.9 million from $86.2 million. Magazine revenue dropped 2% to $24.7 million on flat newsstand sales, fewer subscriptions and a 3% decline in advertising. The company also expects a 30% decline in magazine advertising revenue in the first quarter of 2008.

Ads promoting and marketing Miss Playboy Mobile 2008 are scheduled to run across print, television, radio, and online. Print ads start in April in Playboy. Software developers are working on widget applets for Facebook to use as an advertising tool and track hits. Contest planners guide participants on ways to market participation in the contest by adding information to their Web sites and social network pages like Facebook, Friendster and MySpace.

Playboy Mobile also plans to hold a spring break competition at Tesoro Los Cabos during Playboy U in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for college students. The winner of the mini contest becomes one of the 10 finalists that will go to Las Vegas, where Playboy Mobile will crown Miss Playboy Mobile 2008 at the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa at the Palms Casino Resort on April 2, during CTIA. There's a $5,000 cash-prize, as well as the professional photo-shoot at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

Playboy Mobile will not limit the number of women who can participate, but all submissions must include photographs and bios. As of Tuesday, about 80 women had submitted materials, clearing the registration process for the non-nude competition.

Submissions and votes are accepted until March 15. Voting on the finalists runs from March 16 through March 31. Voters are asked to text their favorite contestants' identification number to the Miss Playboy Mobile short code 67000.

Lang plans to measure the success of Playboy Mobile's ability to penetrate social and mobile networks to gain a higher response rate that justifies the competition. If successful in the United States, the contest could expand worldwide. "We've taken the idea to our local publishing partners around the world, and more than a dozen have shown interest," he says. "In the next phase we would hold competitions and searches in multiple countries. If the format is successful, we'll hold a global competition."

Playboy's push into mobile began last year to attract tech-savvy consumers and address changing market demands. Playboy Mobile offers non- and ad-supported services, such as text-based and information alerts, along with nude images, glamour shots and video.

The mobile contest also aims to highlight "The Girls Next Door" reality television series on E!, along with the opening of the entertainment facility at the Palms Casino Resort in the Las Vegas, and fashion clothing stores in London.

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