Saturday, May 17, 2008

Playboy looking for the next playmate on YouTube

May 16 2008


(Playboy editor Holly Madison )

"Playmates are hard to find!" giggled Holly Madison, whose resume fairly bulges with credits like Playmate editor, 2005 Playboy cover girl, star of E!'s "The Girls Next Door," and lady-friend of Hugh Hefner.

Madison is in charge of Playboy's online casting call, part of the magazine's search for its 55th-anniversary playmate. The magazine invited aspiring centerfolds across the U.S. to submit (non-nude!) videos to YouTube describing why they should be the one to be splayed across those august pages come January 2009, the release date of the anniversary issue.

Whereas the 400-person live casting events Playboy generally uses tend to yield only one candidate, Madison said the results of the YouTube contest have been surprising. Of the 42 submissions she's received in the first week of the contest, "I've seen several girls I definitely want to fly out here and test."

On the screen in front of her, a candidate was busy removing her small white T-shirt to reveal a skimpy striped bikini. "I think I should be the 55th-year anniversary playmate because I love," she says, the shirt flying off, "to get naked!"

Madison tittered. "You can't judge them too harshly because I don't know what I would say either! The worst is when people say, 'Tell me about yourself,' and you're like ... uhhh."

If you wade through the submissions, you'll see that--like YouTube videos in general--most of them are amateurish and borderline unwatchable. The girls talk about their favorite sports teams, their gymnastics skills, hometowns, how they made lasagna earlier this week, and how they'd love, just love, to be a playmate. Some viewers may experience a spike in interest when the candidates invite them into the shower (see video below), but most of this footage wouldn't make many final cuts, even for a reality show.

But that's less a criticism than a point in the Playboy's favor. Rather than worrying about how silly homemade videos might tarnish the bunny's hard-won image, Playboy is experimenting with something new.

Hardly any major media companies are inviting regular folk to contribute user-generated videos to a page that also shows their corporate logo. Music companies use YouTube to release their music, and TV companies use it to promote their TV shows. Perhaps its only fitting that Playboy be the one to go where no one else dares tread.

Soon Madison's screen showed a different girl painting a picture of the famed bunny on a large canvas. She's wearing a bikini bottom. The bunny comes out pretty well.

"I think it takes a little extra bravery to put up a video for the whole world to see," Madison said.

While it might be less efficient than live casting in some ways, a YouTube casting call can reach a much larger pool of aspirants. And, as Madison points out, anyone who's willing to post their audition video online clearly isn't afraid to put themselves out there.