The News Herald - Panama City, FL


Condom company tries humor
Rubber Ducky sales are good in Bay county

By Mark Horvitt,
staff writer

The blue-and-white box feature Rubber Ducky, a cartoon character shown winking and giving the "thumbs up" sign. Creating a character to sell a product is not a unique marketing tecnique-except that Rubber Ducky is not promoting toys or breakfast cereal, but condoms. Rubber Ducky condoms, the branchild of Texas businessman Steve Finley and his wife Lisha, are being sold in 38 states and
several foreign countries. The company is heavily promoting its product in Bay County. "You're the only market in Florida we have opened up with any kind of thrust yet," Finley said. IN addition to the condoms, may beach stores now sell T-shirts printed with Rubber Ducky and slogans like "The Original After Party Animal". Finley said the company's most recent design depicts Rubber Ducky

Doug Schaeffer puts the final touches on the Surf Shak's Rubber Ducky condom display.
as a truck driver and uses the slogan "Let the Good Times Roll On". "We've done a lot with puns", he says. The idea for Rubber Ducky condoms, which first hit the market a few Spring Breaks ago, was to create a condom with "a brand name just targeted at the younger market", Finley said. Our goal is essentially to respond to the surgeon general's plea, Finley said, that "people who are sexually active, please use a condom". In Finley's opinion, "most young people didn't listen to the medical experts and the surgeon general". To get them to listen, the Finleys decided to come up with a brand name and character that would make condoms appeal to the younger generation. "We like animals" Finley said. "The Duck was kind of a function of the name 'rubber' he said. Kids didn't call them condoms or prophylactics then." Now the call them condoms, but more frequently, "Rubber Duckys". Stores' Reluctance The Finleys initially had a problem marketing their idea. "Seventy-five to eighty per cent of the store owners we called on first said "no" Finley said. "They were afraid that having that product with its humorous angle would offend consumers." But condoms, shirts, bumper stickers have caught on. Finley said he will be marketing the product in all 50 states soon. Rubber Ducky is already in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England, and will soon be in Canada. Finley believes the condoms are selling well because they are "easy to buy". The idea behind the packaging was to "bring out a condom pagkage that makes it psychologically easy purchase" he said. When buying other condoms, Finley said people feel Uncomfortable. Rubber Ducky's just too cute to be offensive. "Rubber Ducky says 'I need to be cool, condoms are cool'". Each box of condoms, which are made by Ansell, and packaged at the company's Dothan, Al. Plant, features a picture of Rubber Ducky and the slogan ""The Fit that won't quit". The Rubber Ducky slogans appear on billboards and have been displayed on banners towed by airplanes. Television stations, including MTV, have been turning down Finley's commercials, but on June 10, a television station in Virginia Beach, Va. became the first to agree to run Rubber Ducky commercials, he said. Ads Aired Locally At least one Bay County radio station is carrying Rubber Ducky ads. WPFM "considered the potentially controversial aspects of it and elected to go ahead" with running commercials, said the general manager. "We haven't received any negative feedback". We even get request from listeners who want to hear the commercials! Several local stores that stock Rubber Ducky products told The News Herald That they have not received any complaints from customers as a result of carrying the condoms and shirts. One manager was quoted as saying they sold 200 boxes the past month. "A lot of them (customers) are buying them for jokes. The condoms come in colors and they think that's pretty funny, too". T-shirts and advertising are not the only methods being used to spread the word about Rubber Ducky. Finley said the condoms also are being marketed through promotions in nightclubs, billed as "Safe Sex Nights". At some clubs, the first 100 people in the door get free boxes of condoms. Inside the club, the company hangs banners and large versions of the condom box, he said. Customers in the club are recruited to compete in "Blow it til it pops contests, in which they take a condom and do exactly what the event's title implies, Finley said. He believes holding such promotions helps get across the idea that condoms are necessary for safe sex. The message is "if they're out there on the prowl, they better take condoms with them" Finley said.