, Research Paper
What sort of man reads playboy
“What Sort of Man Reads Playboy?”
“What sort of man reads Playboy? He’s a man who turns his leisure time into an
adventure…He’s a man with a discriminating eye…He’s a man who is smart about his future.” Playboy-Aug.,Sept.,Oct. 1996
While flipping through the pages of a once controversial but now globally excepted magazine, one will find an interesting advertisement within the covers of Playboy. There is a full page color advertisement that generally depicts a man and at least one woman. The scene within the ad changes with each issue but it is always fresh and upbeat, such as an outdoor scene, an art gallery, or steps at some college campus. Each ad such as this asks the same question, “What sort of man reads Playboy,” then continues on to answer itself. After briefly viewing the ad, the common “JOE” might go on his merry way paying the advertisement no attention, being that his only concern is to find the centerfold. Although he may pay no attention to the ad at first, his subconscious is working its will. Common “Joe’s” subconscious is telling him that he needs to subscribe to Playboy or at least buy another issue. More than likely the reader will be influenced by the ad at its face value, the subconscious will not have to interpret it for him. The advertisement is blunt and it draws on direct feedback, the purchase of another issue. Simply put, Playboy uses shameless visual and written appeals in their self advertisements in attempt to sell more magazines by drawing on mens social concepts. In writing this, it is my goal to decipher the meaning and intentions of this ad so that not only the message will be apparent but also Playboys manipulation of its audience.
To every message there is a sender, and in this case it is one of the top ten men’s entertainment magazines, Playboy. Service provided from this magazine is visual entertainment for open minded, mature adults. By far, Playboy magazine has been one of Americas forerunners in contributing to this countries social and cultural attitudes. Countless men have turned the pages of this publication; whether it be for the commentaries and articles or for the photography, Playboy has managed to find its way into most mens lives.
What truly separates this magazines from other men’s magazines is that it is geared towards the bachelor or single man more so than the married one. This is not to say that the married man doesn’t have copies of Playboy lying around the house– it is only to say there is a better chance that he has canceled his subscription. Playboy has even gone as far as to modify its ways to target certain bachelors within each issue. I have obtained three consecutive issues of Playboy consisting of August 1996-October 1996. Each of the magazines contain the same ad, “What sort of man reads Playboy,” but each paints a distinctly different picture. The August 1996 issue contained topics such as sports and sex, and women of the Olympics. It just so happened that the “What sort…” ad contained a picture of a man and a woman gazing down from on top of a rock with rock climbing gear on. The October 1996 issue contained photographs of “The Girls of the Big 12″ and articles on sex in college and college sports.
Coincidentally the “What sort…” ad pictured a college student wearing a lettermen jacket,
sitting on some steps (which appeared to be at a university) typing into his laptop. Leaning on him was a gorgeous woman giving him a “wanting look.” Along with the full page picture there is also a printed message. Recreation and outdoor-sports enthusiasts were a few of the choice words used in the rock climbing ad while the laptop ad talked about higher education and male college readers. After having been around awhile, Playboy has learned to play the ropes. The interest related topics (Girls of the Big 12) get the interest related audience (college men) who view the interest related ads (college student ad). By now you should be able to see the relationship going on between Playboys self advertisement and what topics and photographs are covered in each issue.
To fully understand the depth of Playboys message, it will be necessary to split the message up into its two components: the visual component made up of the full page picture
and the written component which is the typed message. First let me discuss the visual component. It has been said that a picture can be worth a thousand words; if it were up to Playboy those thousand words would only add up to one thing, Pathos. Shameless emotional appeal is the direct goal of the picture, one that uses such methods as appealing to sex, status, power, adventure, self-esteem, and wealth. These are all “manly” ideals that are held with high regard in our American society. Each method of appeal has the potential to strikes a nerve in
readers social concepts or ideals. Not all appeals will affect the reader but at least one appeal will draw a bond between the reader and what he considers socially valuable. One example of this might be a man who was physically fit and enjoys exercise. This man would see the ad in the August issue and draw some sort of relationship to it; perhaps this man thinks that “real” men workout and in seeing the ad it only agrees with his personal belief system. His social concept is that women are attracted to tough, physically macho men who take control of the situation. When he sees this particular ad, the conclusion he draws is, “This guy is like me.”
There is no legitimate reason that this picture should influence anyone but it does, all because of its emotional appeal. Being only human it is in our nature to see things, relate to them, feel for them.
Just as if you were in a Mike Tyson fight, this Playboy ad delivers a one- two punch. First you were jabbed with the visual component and then you are uppercut with the written component. The written component is compiled of Logos, Logos, and more Logos.
It is merely statistics used to persuade the audience into thinking, “If those people (like me) read Playboy, I should read Playboy.” An example of this would be one straight out of the September 1996 issue. For instance let us say that you are a sophisticated man who enjoys the finer things in life such as artwork, classical music, and theater. While flipping through this particular issue you come across Playboys self advertisement. Immediately you are drawn to the picture of a man standing in an art gallery, observing a sculpture, while women are observing you. You look down to the bottom of the ad and read what it says. It tells you what kind of man reads Playboy. “He knows taste… Playboy features the world’s top artists… More than 2.3 million of the magazine readers make the habit of attending art events, concerts, the ballet…Playboy-it puts you in the picture.” After reading that you say to yourself, “Those are things that I enjoy. My life is socially built around those events. Men who read Playboy are just like me, they appreciate the things I appreciate. Perhaps I should subscribe to Playboy.” This may sound absurd but what other conclusion could you obtain if you took the ad literally.
Once you sit down and really read the message, you realize Playboy is telling you, “This is almost your lifestyle. Here are your (to each his own ad) social concepts. Get an edge on them by reading Playboy.” Each written component is supported by a different number of statistics, all of which are recent and cited by a semiannual report called the MRI. Statistics work well if there is proof of a cause; unfortunately Playboy does not provide the proof that 2.3 million art spectators observe art because they read Playboy. As far as persuasion is concerned, the written component is solid at the crust, but dig a little deeper and becomes liquid at the core. So now Playboy has hit you with its one- two punch. You are stumbling a bit and feeling a little confused but that will be the extent of it. It is a shame for Playboy that they do not throw the third punch, Ethos. Establishing credit could have changed the outcome of this match. Using this style of self advertisement and visual appeal (Pathos), Playboy may sell magazines to men. With this style of advertisement and using written appeal (Logos),they may sell magazines to men. But, they will never sell to their full potential without establishing creditability (Ethos). Playboy magazine has discovered ways to appeal to certain audiences using these full page ads. Using little effort they draw in the crowd they want, plead to the crowds saliency with their depicted social concept, and hope in return for establishing some sort of bond, a potential buyer. If ones social concepts are very strong, to the point that it runs his whole life, that person is extremely susceptible to give in to Playboys message. On the other hand, if ones social concepts are not domineering, he should be able to see through the emotional appeals and statistical persuasion and realize, “It is just a cheap ad to get me to buy this magazine. Anyway, I don’t see a picture of Bill Clinton reading it.” So what sort of man reads Playboy? From a personal standpoint I think viewer discretion is advised.