A rejuvenated Playboy bets big on branded content with 17 original shows

The brand's audience is getting younger, and brands are taking a new interest

The name Playboy may recall memories of naked centerfolds and Hugh Hefner surrounded by young women in bunny suits, but the 63-year-old brand is getting with the times, no Viagra needed.

At its first NewFront on Friday, May 13, Playboy announced the formation of Playboy Studios, a branded-content studio for marketers wanting to reach the 150 million consumers that frequent the brand’s properties every month.

Hosting the event was actor and designer Waris Ahluwalia, a star of "House of Waris," one of seventeen new shows produced by the studio that will be premiering on Playboy.com in June 2016. Addressing the audience of advertising executives, he joked, "Now for what will really turn you on — branded content." The new Playboy Studios will use its in-house creative team, social influencers and content contributors to weave brands into these shows.

The shows will include documentaries, scripted comedies and talk shows, as well as lifestyle shows for viewers interested in games, social media, tech, travel and food. "Journalista" follows Playboy correspondent Yoonji Kim as she investigates sex, drugs and alternative lifestyles. "The Front" features Vine star Jon Paul Piques in a comedy about a sports agency fronting for the mob. In the weekly "The Antiviral Show," Playboy’s social media team discusses the latest viral videos and interviews guest stars.   

Playboy hopes these shows will appeal to a Millennial male audience wanting to be "rebels, rule-breakers and renegades." According to Hugh Garvey, head of branded content at Playboy, "Those are the things every man, and many brands, want to be."

Since 2014, when the website relaunched with content "safe for work," the brand has seen the average age of users drop from 47 years old to 31 years old, and as of now, 75% of users are Millennials, according to Phillip Morelock, chief digital officer at Playboy.  "There’s a lot of great stuff in Playboy, and we wanted to provide it to a wider audience," he said.

The brand’s redesign isn’t hurting its relationship with marketers, he added. If anything it has attracted more. Last October, when Playboy decided not to show any more nude women in its magazine, more brands became open to collaborating, Morelock said. In fact, Playboy is now back with Dodge after 25 years, and "digital ad revenue is up 75% year over year," he said. "There are a lot of diverse voices in the marketing community, and Playboy has always been about inclusion," he said, "but this is a move we can make to reach a newer, younger audience." 

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