At its height in 1972, Playboy’s circulation was more than 7 million copies per month. Yet Hugh Hefner still had to work to convince advertisers that men read the magazine for something more than the, uh, articles.
The company ran this ad campaign—”What kind of man reads Playboy?”—in the late 1960s, targeting companies and ad agencies who might not otherwise consider buying space in the title.
In hindsight, the ads say more about how Playboy and Hefner saw themselves than they did about actual men: Nehru jackets, fondue and hair cream were the Playboy-reader’s calling cards, according to the ads.
The men were also surprisingly middle-aged: There’s a jacket-and-tie in virtually every execution, and not a few crow’s feet and brow wrinkles. Nonetheless, their every move drew admiring glances from the decades-younger women around them (perhaps because it was so weird to see a guy nonchalantly reading Playboy in public).
Today, Playboy’s advertiser rate base is just 1.5 million. Even its biggest issues only sell about 50 ad pages. Perhaps it’s time for a new round of “What sort of man reads Playboy?”
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