Thursday, May 10, 2012
Playboy's late-life identity crisis
Poor old Playboy doesn't know what to be in the 21st Century.
Founded as somewhat of a countercultural icon for affluent and educated men almost 60 years ago, it played an important (if one-sided) part in the Sexual Revolution and spoke out against McCarthyism. In the '60s, it matured into a brand for the wannabe martini set. But by the '70s, hardcore pornography took away its more horny audiences as it maintained its relevance through top-notch interviews and celebrity pictorials. In the '80s, it was all about video.
Now, here we are in the digital age. Pictures of naked women are abundant and free. So is interesting and subversive content. So what's left for Playboy?
I think their biggest problem is that sex, culture and politics are no longer a man's exclusive domain. Playboy will never be able to shake its basically sexist brand character, and who wants to be associated with that?
The douchebag market, that's who. Young men who read Maxim and wear Axe.
To compete with Maxim, Playboy launched The Smoking Jacket, an online ladmag that covers culture, entertainment and boobies with a less overtly-pornographic, teasing style. Fellow adblogger Steve Hall, from Adrants, is one of the contributors. (He pens a "sexy ads of the week" column.)
Check out this Playboy shower gel ad by DDB Paris:
Yeah, it's a shitty ad. It's also extremely creepy. Can you imagine how a young woman would feel if a strange man, alone with her in the elevator, hit the emergency button? She'd be expecting the worst.
I don't really know if Playboy has a future as a serious brand. It could be that, in a few years, it will only survive as a logo worn ironically (or desperately) by attention-seeking young women.
What do you think?