Playboy Drops Nudes (But Not Girls)

It’s the end of an era -- and the beginning of a new one -- as Playboy, the world’s best-known girlie magazine, announced it is dropping nudity from its print edition, having already phased out naked pictures on its digital properties.

The news, first reported by The New York Times, represents a key step in the iconic brand’s reinvention as a multiplatform publisher with a growing digital presence.

The new editorial approach, approved by founder and editor-in-chief Hugh Hefner, will take effect in March. The news was confirmed by Playboy senior vice president for marketing and digital media Robin Zucker, who spoke at MediaPost’s Publishing Insider Summit in Asheville, NC just a few hours after the story broke.

The lifestyle brand Hefner founded is still relevant and viable, she said, but in an age of ubiquitous online titillation, “the nudity had really become a distraction.”

In the same vein, Playboy CEO Scott Flanders told the NYT: “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

Lest anyone mistakenly conclude that Playboy is turning its back on female beauty altogether, it should be noted that it is still very much a men’s lifestyle magazine targeting younger males in particular; in short, it’s still serving up plenty of cheesecake, just wearing bikinis now.

That key difference should make Playboy’s various platforms spanning print and digital much more attractive to advertisers, including major brands traditionally leery of risqué content. Zucker said this week’s high-profile announcement, which included an article on the front page of The New York Times, was in effect Playboy’s coming-out party for the agency world.

Of course, some brands were natural fits for Playboy: anything relating to nightlife and parties, especially spirits, could be considered endemic categories. On that note, Zucker showed the MediaPost conference a clip from Playboy branded content produced for Stolichnaya, showing viewers how to make the mysterious Moscow Mule.

Playboy ditched nudity on its digital properties beginning in August of last year. That includes its mobile app, “Playboy Now,” which launched in May. The lifestyle app includes a daily briefing, “The Daily,” along with more in-depth articles and video content.

In addition to general-interest content, other categories include sports, entertainment, music and technology, as well as “guy trends.”

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