The party’s over, Hef. Women will no longer be on display, naked as they were born, in the pages of Playboy. Fully nude ladies are officially vanishing from your baby. They make you look old and outdated.
Scott Flanders was right. What put the iconic American nudie mag on the map (and under our mattresses) in the first place will be a thing of the past this March, when a “top-to-bottom” redesigned Playboy debuts.
“You could argue that nudity is a distraction for us and actually shrinks our audience rather than expands it,” Flanders, the CEO of Playboy Enterprises, told Entrepreneur last December. “At the time when Hef founded the company [in 1953], nudity was provocative, it was attention-grabbing, it was unique and today it’s not. It’s passé.”
Passé because of the nonstop digital orgy that is the Internet. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free,” Flanders said in a New York Times article yesterday. “And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”
Playboy made news of the move official in a press release issued earlier today. The sea change comes on the heels of the brand’s relaunch of Playboy.com last summer as a so-called “safe-for-work” site.
Flanders, 58, three decades younger than Playboy founder editor and chief Hugh Hefner, has wanted “stale” full nude spreads out of the declining magazine for years. He just never imagined it would be while Hefner still owned a third of the company, he also told us, nor while he still personally selects all of the stripped spreads for the publication.
“People said, ‘Oh, we know what Hef likes. He likes this type of photography,’ and I said, ‘Well that’s bullshit. That’s like saying he likes the same meatloaf he’s been eating for 25 years. Let’s give him a piece of steak and see if he likes that,’” Flanders says. “And, sure as hell, as soon as they gave Hef more contemporary photography he loved it.”
Contemporized and cleaned up or not, full nudes are indeed vanishing. But, make no mistake about it, provocative, partially nude lady eye candy will still be front and center in the “men’s lifestyle” monthly. Playboy will continue to publish sexy, seductive pictorials of the world’s most beautiful women,” today’s press release reads, “including its iconic Playmates, all shot by some of today’s most renowned photographers.” That is as long as it keeps publishing. Flanders himself acknowledges that the circulation of the magazine will only get smaller and smaller and perhaps eventually disappear altogether, like Larry Flynt says Hustler will.
How does Playboy define partially nude? With below-the-belt shots gone, will pics of topless women still make the cut? We reached out to Playboy to find out. A representative clarified that “no nipples” will be shown. That leaves plenty of room for the rest of the breast, and that doesn’t sound SFW to us.
Playboy has struggled to stay relevant in the digital age, rejiggering here and there, gradually toning down the T&A, as its circulation plummeted to its current 800,000. It once enjoyed a high of 5.6 million at its peak in 1975. Meanwhile, its web traffic has done the opposite, quadrupling since the brand nixed full nudity in August 2014. Instead came a daily drip of highly shareable, borderline pervy listicles (“14 Beautiful Girls at Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird Campout”) and gobs of other clickbait-style content (“15 Extremely Awkward After-Sex Selfies”).
Still, the ugly, naked truth remains. You can take the nipples and full frontal spreads out of Playboy, but you can’t take the objectified females out of it, stark naked or not. As Flanders said, “Sexy, beautiful women that men aspire to want to have attracted to them, that will never change in the DNA of Playboy…”
Related: Building Brand Value the Playboy Way