Playboy CEO Envisions the Brand Without Nudity

Dec 5, 2014 7:00 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — Can the Playboy empire survive without nudity? Could be. CEO Scott Flanders told Entrepreneur magazine that the iconic giant is turning more to lifestyle branding and away from the skin that made the Bunny what it is today.

“You could argue that nudity is a distraction for us and actually shrinks our audience rather than expands it,” Flanders said. “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.”

Flanders maintained that although sexy, beautiful, sophisticated women that men aspire to want will always be a centerpiece of Playboy’s DNA, he believes either during his tenure or his successor’s the company will evolve away from and perhaps completely [be] out of nudity.

The CEO was also candid about the deal with Manwin [now MindGeek] that gave the Internet giant control of Playboy’s TV assets including the Spice channels that he said tarnished the original luster of the brand.

“First and foremost was selling off the adult TV business. Playboy should not have association with being in the sex-act business,” Flanders said.

Flanders also said he has regrets about the MindGeek deal — despite it infusing the company with much needed capital — because MindGeek used Playboy.com to funnel traffic to its hardcore sites, which he thinks was “too off-brand.”

The shift is apparently already happening with the lunch of a revamped somewhat “softer” and more female-friendly flagship website, SFW apps and a magazine [that Flanders said is now breaking even] that’s testing the waters with new design, editorial and photography that even Hefner is on board with.

But despite Flanders’ plans, it’s doubtful that as long as the 88 year-old Hefner is still alive he will ever altogether abandon the naked babes that launched the empire.

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