PLAYBOY; +60 years of cultural history of the Male Gaze and its fall with Social Media
Social Media has created an endless movement of fast entertainment producing serious transitions and influence on the modern consumer behavior, especially on the erotic entertainment industry where the rise of digital porn has killed over 60 years of Playboy history.
Playboy was not your average entertainment slash erotic magazine, founded in 1953, it was known to be the symbol of the ‘Alpha American dream’ where its slogan spoke for itself “Playboy; Entertainment for Men”. Hollywood icons from Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Pamela Anderson, Kate Moss, Drew Berry Moore, Donald Trump, to Anna Nicole Smith as well as the first black American stars /models in the early 70’s such as the Jacksons graced the front covers shifting the mainstream beauty standards at the time.
However, with the new millennial era, social media and the concept of a more globalized form of consumerism, Playboy’s concept of western sex entertainment just seems to be something of the mere past.
Moreover, with print media on an irreversible declining trend, the magazine has been suffering major losses in the past decades. Founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner, who remains editor in chief at 89 years old, went from its iconic glam playboy mansion to now trying to sell non-nude issues since 2015 in order to drive more commercial sales (achieving a GQ type of positioning) as well as recently placing its enterprise on sale for 500 Million USD ( in 2016) and selling its Mansion for 100 Million USD (1/2 of the $200 million it originally asked) according to Reuters. Indeed, The New York Times reported that Playboy’s circulation has dropped from 5.6 Million in 1975 to about 800,000 in 2015 and on a continuing decline since its recent re-branding.
Hugh Hefner – 25th Anniversary
Despite the magazines high brand recognition where it can be compared to Apple, Starbucks, Coca Cola, in terms of brand awareness, Playboy does not appear to have a clear strategy on how to attract its future generation of younger consumers. With our millennial era of free access premium HD porn, web porn, VR sets and trending popularity for more explicit visuals and new faces, Playboy seems to be lagging behind like if it got stuck in the ‘Mad Men’ era.
Moreover, its recent move on no longer showcasing nude photos in its magazine lead to a further decline in sales and hit negative media reviews in 2016 ;
“The erotic magazine has switched to a no-nudes policy where the reasons for its existence are no longer in place”
“How can you take the most important feature of your magazine and drop it? What it became notorious for.”
“Playboy is no longer an appropriate channel for sex and sex advice, and nobody today refers to themselves as a Playboy man – the designation no longer exists. It had a great life, a healthy life, and it served a great role but we should recognize that everything has a life cycle.”
stated The Guardian (April 2 2016)
Although the brand clearly showed signs of deterioration from 1953 to 2009 maybe having to due with pressure on sales, investor relations, family feuds, and unprofitable licensing deals, China seems to be a large consumer of today’s Playboy. Even though the magazine is not published in China, Playboy-branded products are sold in 3,500 retailers. Out of Playboy’s $1.5bn in annual retail sales worldwide in 2013, over $500 Million came from China, according to company figures. CEO Scott Flanders called the figures “testament to the tremendous power of our brand”.
PLAYBOYS TOP COVERS
I don’t really know what the future holds for Playboy, but they’ve surely contributed to Hollywood stars, pioneers of western erotic entertainment, and mainstream standards of beauty. Here are some of the publications most iconic covers since its debut with America’s sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe in 1953.
First Issue of Playboy with Marilyn Monroe-1953
Actress Donna Michelle-1964 – first Playboy Bunny interpretation
Black American Model Darine Stern-1971, winning top 40 most important magazine covers in 40 years (2005)
Charlies Angles Star Farrah Fawcett- 1978
Supermodel Cindy Crawford- 1988
Pamela Andersons first playboy cover-1989, Andersons Debute
Donald Trump- 1990
Anna Nicole Smith- 1993
Pamela Anderson and The ConeHeads-1993
Charlize Theron- 1999
Marge Simpson- 2009
Kate Moss 60th Anniversary Issue- 2014
Last Nude Playboy Issue with Pamela Anderson-2016