Playboy and Blowfish
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 99 22:07:17 -0700
Subject: Playboy and Blowfish
Forwarded-by: Barbara Millikan <email@example.com>
* Blowfish: Too Hot for Playboy?
Prudery is a strange and amazing thing. Even in the sex industry, where
you would think that people are open-minded and accepting, you can crash
into strange levels of Puritanism.
That just happened to us... and it was such an entertaining experience that
we have to share it.
Blowfish is embarking on a new print advertising campaign. One of the
publications that popped immediately to mind was Playboy; after all, we've
been mentioned in the Playboy Advisor, they take advertising from our
estemed competition, it's a natural.
Our loyal, hardworking advertising person Maria, after rattling around in
the voicemail of the Playboy Empire, finally gets in touch with a rep, who
we'll call "Samantha," in New York. Maria explains to her what we're about
("we're a high-end sexuality and sensuality products company based in San
Francisco..."), and much entertaining discussion ensues.
Samantha wants to know what we sell. "Lubes, toys, books, videos?" She
would like to know if the videos we sell are "pornographic." "Um, what do
you mean by that?" She would like to know, by that, if they are hard-core.
"Well, we do carry some of Playboy's videos." (Maria's a clever cookie.)
Samantha opines that we are probably too hard-core to be carried in Playboy.
"Playboy's own videos are too hard-core for Playboy?" Samantha is adamant,
that she's just an ad rep who has been with Playboy 13 years and doesn't
make any decisions (just in case we forgot this, she mentioned it about a
After eavesdropping on this conversation, I have to call back. I do.
Samantha is more than happy to talk with me, at least for a while. Note
that while the conversation below is related as being in full sentences, it
is apparently in Samantha's job description to not let potential clients
finish talking before jumping in over them.
Samantha is curious. "Where else have you advertised?"
I'm happy to be helpful. "Mother Jones, Utne Reader, Whole Earth Review..."
"You sound pretty X-rated to me."
Mother Jones? I'm still not quite believing my ears. "Um, you know that
Playboy does review adult videos..."
"Editorial and advertising are completely separate departments."
"I understand that. But. So, you are saying that carrying the videos that
Playboy reviews makes us too pornographic for Playboy?"
"I don't make the decisions. It's the publisher's decision."
"I understand that, but you've been with the company 13 years..."
"Oh, yes, I've been here 13 years..." (101st telling of spiel deleted.)
"So, in your 13-year experience, you are saying that a catalog that carried
the material that Playboy regularly reviews would be too hard-core to
advertise in Playboy, regardless of the tastefulness of the ad itself?"
Needless to say, the conversation was over at that point. I did try to
extract the name of the person or persons with whom I could discuss their
advertising policies. Samantha said she would "get back to me," and hung
up. Note the lack of asking for my telephone number. I called their
Chicago headquarters, but after wandering aimlessly through the phone maze
for hours, no one there would talk to me, either.
Now, I don't have a problem with them having high standards for their
advertising. I certainly don't have a problem with them not wanting to take
every single sex-toy catalog off of the street. But the idea that Playboy,
standard-bearer of the dirty pictures revolution, would suddenly get
squeamish about a high-end catalog which happens to carry sexually explicit
material makes my head swim.
Editorial discretion is not censorship, and I don't feel that Blowfish is
being censored. Truth to be told, I'm sure we would have dropped our jaws
once we got their rate card. But one cannot escape a certain feeling that
Playboy's resolve to be fearless in the face of sexual prudery is a bit...
If Corporate Communications calls me back, I'll be sure to write more about
[See www.blowfish.com for more about Blowfish]
© 1999 Peter Langston