Re-realizing PLAYBOY's Potential

PLAYBOY—the magazine and the brand—has tremendous potential, as much today as it ever did. Its value in the past is universally acknowledged and demonstrated by a plethora of press coverage, past and present, as well as by the consistent, phenomenal growth and success of the magazine and enterprise itself over its first two decades. While part of that success may have been its special timeliness—the right idea coming at the right time to produce a cultural phenomenon—I think the idea behind PLAYBOY is as valid, exciting, and filled with potential today as it ever was.

To see all of PLAYBOY's potential, it is important to realize that PLAYBOY is unique. The total package—succinctly stated, a men's entertainment and lifestyle magazine with high quality, general interest writing that also presents a nude pin-up image in a monthly signature foldout—is a combination unavailable anywhere else. As I often like to say, PLAYBOY has never been one-dimensional in its content, and so it can attract different people for different reasons. This diversity of appeal is a significant strength, and its multifaceted nature pleases some people so much that PLAYBOY has acquired an uncommonly loyal and long term readership. It can only be to PLAYBOY's advantage to understand and cultivate this. Over the years many magazines have attempted to reproduce the PLAYBOY appeal, but in my opinion none of the imitators really understood the model they were imitating, and so PLAYBOY remains as unique today as it always has been.

Many features in today's media have covered the rise of the so-called "lad mags". Often they portray magazines such as Maxim as younger, hipper versions of PLAYBOY, but without the nudes. I think these comparisons miss one very important point: aside from the sexy photography, Maxim is essentially a humor magazine, a singular slant that is reflected in everything from its illustrations and captions to (what there is of) its editorial content. While PLAYBOY may be in competition for the entertainment dollars of some of Maxim's audience, to identify the two is to miss a large part of PLAYBOY's enduring and wide appeal. The larger scope (and therefore larger potential) of PLAYBOY's content is something well worth bearing in mind.

Paradoxically, I think that a significant indicator of the appeal of PLAYBOY's original concept today is to be found in the widespread dissatisfaction with the magazine that is expressed again and again wherever PLAYBOY is discussed. I think this dissatisfaction points strongly to two closely related truths: that people care (start worrying when they say nothing, because then they are getting their fulfillment in other ideas, and elsewhere!); and that they have a strong desire for the special content that PLAYBOY uniquely provides.

There is a whole class of PLAYBOY's audience, especially those who have been long term readers (and I am among them), who now feel abandoned, almost betrayed, by a magazine that they once felt a much closer connection to. We carry a torch for what PLAYBOY once was, and that should not be taken lightly. As they attempt to update PLAYBOY, its editors seem to have decided that what PLAYBOY once was has largely passed and has little relevance in today's world. I think they are mistaken in this, and the following pages address this in some detail.

I think our passion speaks strongly for the enduring appeal of the orginal idea behind PLAYBOY.

Peggy Wilkins
Last modified: Mon Apr 5 06:55:17 CDT 2004