As Playboy Dumps The Nudes, Will Ad Dollars Flood In?

Are Advertisers Eager To Align with a Non Nude Playboy?

Playboy Bunnies
Playboy Bunnies. Getty Images

It seems like a contradiction in terms – Nudity-free Playboy. The magazine, started by Hugh Heffner in December 1953 is synonymous with beautiful, naked women. The first centerfold was Marilyn Monroe, and since then a vast array of celebrities have appeared in its pages. Among them, Pamela Anderson, Kim Basinger, Shannon Doherty, Lindsay Lohan, Drew Barrymore, Madonna, Sharon Stone, Raquel Welsh, and Cindy Crawford.

However, while female celebrities have flocked to the infamous magazine for decades, the same has not been true for many advertisers. While certain alcoholic beverages, cars, tobacco products, and other “content suitable” brands were heavily featured, a lot of advertisers do not want to be associated with a magazine that is known for its soft-core pornography. But after Playboy’s recent announcement, all that could, and almost certainly will, change.

The New Face of Playboy

In August of 2014, Playboy started to “clean up” its website, creating a whole lot more SFW (Safe For Work) content. In essence, the Playboy website began to mirror a lot of the content on sites like Maxim, FHM, GQ, and other similar men’s lifestyle brands. Girls were featured, but only a subscription to Playboy Plus would give users access to the fully nude shots. And since that move, Playboy’s online readership is up an astonishing 258%.

With those kinds of results, Playboy took the bold step to announce no more nudes…at all. “The political and sexual climate of 1953, the year Hugh Hefner introduced Playboy to the world, bears almost no resemblance to today,” said Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders.  “We are more free to express ourselves politically, sexually and culturally today, and that’s in large part thanks to Hef’s heroic mission to expand those freedoms. We will stay true to those core values with this new vision of Playboy’s future. Once our readers see all of the innovative changes we’re making to the magazine, we’re confident they will love the end product when it debuts next year.”

Of course, the magazine industry being what it is, the January 2016 edition of Playboy was the last nude version to hit the stands (December 11th). It featured the magazine’s biggest icon and Playmate, Pamela Anderson, in her final nude appearance for the magazine. After that, everything will change.

The magazine is shifting to a heavier, high-quality paper to make it more collectible. The size will increase too, to a sturdy 9” x 11”. And of course…the ladies inside will be wearing lingerie, or other sexy clothing, but will no longer be baring all.

So...Why The Facelift?

These significant changes serve two big end goals. First, the target audience. Playboy is seen as an older men's magazine right now. It’s a little dated. By going towards the Maxim and GQ editorial style, they hope to bring down the average age of the Playboy reader. The men’s lifestyle articles, featuring listicles, sex advice, sports, movies, technology, and fashion, are very popular with the younger crowd.

Second, the tonal change opens the doors to a host of advertisers who were always reluctant to be aligned with a nude magazine, or “skin mag.” And with more advertisers comes more revenue, and a more legitimate status.

It also means that Playboy magazine will be much more widely available, placed on the shelves next to the other lifestyle mags, and not on the top shelf next to magazines associated with hardcore content. The Playboy stigma will be gone.

Whereas most people used to read Playboy in the confines of their home or office, it will now be perfectly ok to read it in public, on planes, in cafes, and at the airport. It may take time for people to adjust, but it will happen.

Overall, this is a smart move for Playboy. Many consider it to be the death of the brand, but it is merely an evolution of it. And, a much needed one. As CEO Scott Flanders so rightly sais, you are currently “one click away from every sex act imaginable for free." Playboy isn’t changing for the sake of change. It is changing to stay relevant, and while that change may be tough for some to take, it will inevitably lead to a stronger brand with a much larger audience.