Philly Fake Ad is Part Joke, Part Market Research

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By: Joe Strupp

If you couldn?t tell from the humorous-sounding company name, many of the ads for the fictional Derrie-Air in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News included a disclaimer informing readers that they were fakes.

But the ads, which ran in both papers and online Friday, are more than just a slight joke, they are also market research, according to Jay Devine, a spokesman for Philadelphia Media Holdings, which owns both dailies.

Devine said the false ads, which promised the “world’s only carbon-neutral luxury airline” and claim to set prices based on the weight of each passenger and their luggage, are a test of the papers’ and their Web site’s ad response power.

“There are two purposes to it,” Devine said Friday. “One is to try to put a smile on people’s faces and have some fun. And to demonstrate the power of our brands, in print and online, to drive traffic awareness — in this case for a brand that doesn?t exist and is fictitious.”

Devine said two full-page versions of the ad appeared in Friday’s Inquirer, along with smaller versions throughout the paper and in the Daily News, as well as online. An online version can be found at:

The larger ads include the story of fictional owner Dick Derrie, who “held down all kinds of jobs-building rafts, hunting wild boar, guarding prisoners at the nearby correctional facility.” He later “owned a chain of pinball machines in local juke joints and had a net worth of some $5 million” and is supposedly “the richest man in the state of Missouri.”

At the bottom of some of the ads, the company offers this confession: “The Derrie-Air campaign is a fictitious advertising campaign created by Philadelphia Media Holdings to test the results of advertising in our print and online products and to stimulate discussion on a timely environmental topic of interest to all citizens. All names, identities, characters, persons, whether living or dead, companies, situations, offers, products, services, and other information appearing in this campaign and the associated website are fictitious.

“Any resemblance to real or fictitious names, identities, characters, persons, whether living or dead, companies, situations, offers, products, services, or other information, is purely coincidental and unintentional,” it adds. “In other words, smile, we’re pulling your leg.”

But not all of the full-page ads offer a hint to the fakery, although they include the Web site address to the fictional Web version that offers the explanation.

Devine said the company will review the online page views and traffic results as well as other reaction to the print versions. “It is just a one-day thing,” he explained. “A 24-hour thing to measure the number of hits.”

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