Will going back to the past help the ailing Playboy bring in younger readers? It hopes so. In its latest heritage-inspired move, Playboy shot actress Crista Flanagan (a.k.a. Lois Sadler on Mad Men) in a demurely shot centerfold for its August issue.
August has two covers, both featuring Flanagan re-creating Playboy covers from the 1960s. It also includes an essay by famed adman George Lois.
Back in November, Playboy had a Marge Simpson issue that harkened back to Playboy's first black cover model in the '70s, and editor Jimmy Jellinek recently reintroduced the "Playboy Pad" section after more than 30 years. Vice president, publisher John Lumpkin conceded going back to the past is a risk for Playboy, whose rate base was reduced to 1.5 million from 2.6 million in January.
But he pointed out that images in Playboy’s online cover gallery from the 60s and 70s are very popular with Playboy's Web audience, which tends to be younger than the magazine's readers, who have a median age of 36.
Going retro also has a practical purpose: Playboy is trying to expand its distribution, and the old-style covers, with their relatively tame art direction, also have a better shot at getting carried by more newsstands (the Marge cover got Playboy a rare entree at 7-Eleven). “These covers,” Lumpkin said, “I'm sure they will open doors to us.”