It’s been a year since Playboy South Africa relaunched in South Africa. And a turbulent year it’s been too, with the departure of the launch editor and the arrival of his replacement, distribution issues and a big move from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
But it’s testament to the Playboy South Africa team that far from throwing in (whipping off?) the towel, they have turned hard knocks into opportunities. The magazine’s domination of the social media space is one such area. This past weekend alone they picked up another 2 000 fans on Facebook.
Editor Charl du Plessis says their access to the Playboy US social media team has helped, as they “dwarf all other US mags. We use several of their strategies adopted for local conditions”, he says.
The big pick up over the past weekend “related to promotion of couple of milestones: our first birthday, photos from a successful event, the introduction of new edition’s Playmates. We know how to create focal points and debate. See responses around Trump brothers’ hunting in Zimbabwe as another example. After all, it is a community…”
Du Plessis says more people “talk about us than all of our major and minor competitors bundled together. We were the highest-selling digital subscription magazine nationally on the recent figures we received, and our web-traffic numbers are rather impressive for such a young publication”.
Many magazines are battling to move their digital editions, despite being cheaper, so what is Playboy doing right? “This is the inverse of our distribution problems and misconceptions over the magazine,” says Du Plessis. “The demand for the mag is there, yet some people cannot find it and go digital to get access. Then, for newcomers, it is a more private space to first test the magazine. We know that once people have read Playboy and realise it has substance despite misplaced social critique, they will buy the hard copy as preference.”
Du Plessis says his claim to be the “highest-selling digital subscription magazine nationally on the recent figures we received” are based on figures from mysubs.com, the On The Dot digital group.
“We have experimented with several innovations suggested to them and it is bearing fruit. Correctly you state that it is a tough one as digital uptake at large in SA has been slow (thanks Telkom!). We are adding about 50 new subs per week and have been doing so now for several months. That is high in a nation who does not subscribe, after years of distrust around this channel developed under Post Office delivery failures,” says Du Plessis.
Distribution remains an issue. “It will be a long slog, and the way in which FHM has gone recently must make retailers even more sensitive to what they stock or not. One would have been tempted to feel happy with FHM’s decline if it did not sully some of the waters for us in the distribution chain,” Du Plessis says.
The new edition, celebrating the start of the second year back in South Africa, is titled ‘double vision’. It features two cover models, the first local twins as Playmates, and includes a tribute to the best twins ever published in Playboy internationally.
And a novel approach to advertising is paying off. “Co-branded advertising. Because Playboy is as much a medium as it is a famous brand, we are seeing more and more advertisers showing interest in developing very specific campaigns for Playboy, where at various levels of subtlety, the iconic Playboy Bunny or some of our very popular Playmates are featured in our clients’ ads.
“Lacing the foam on a cappuccino cup featured in a manufacturer’s ad with a chocolate sprinkle Playboy Bunny creates something special. Likewise, Unilever’s creative team for Axe, Verve, is having a blast coming up with stunning concepts. This month, they created a foldout cover where bunnies escape from their laboratory cage to follow the smell of the Axe man. It reads that ‘no bunnies were hurt during this shoot’. The twist – these are Playboy Bunnies. And there is more to come.”
Du Plessis says Playboy is seeing “some opening up” of general advertising. “Our brand neighbourhood is an attractive one, yet some people you just cannot change. BMW in SA, for example, is still a family brand, they claim, despite BMW and Mini being regular and major advertisers in Playboy internationally. We do not always know where marketing science ends and where personal biases start. If I was a brand manager of a major brand, I would seriously want to know that point myself though,” Du Plessis says.
This week the magazine has an Axe activation kicking off. It involves a small sample size bagged with the magazine, but with a personal endorsement by playmates. ”We produced a quantity of magazines with samples only for our Playmates’ magazine signings. The Playmates open the bag, hand each fan his Axe sample personally in order to get to the centerfold for a signing,” Du Plessis explains.
“Axe activations with our Playmates are scheduled right through the month at several events, kicking off this Friday. And our Playmates cover all of the country. Our Playmates are constantly out at events, with some of our Playmates appearing at Sunflower Charity Golf Day, Jazz festival, News Café, and several private signings just in the next 30 days. It is a massive advantage we hold over any other men’s magazine, having this team of popular women out in public and in their Playboy affiliated social media spaces.”
The April edition includes an interview with Vinnige Sarel van der Merwe, South Africa’s most famous racing driver, as well as 20 Questions with David Lee Roth of Van Halen, who just released their first new album in 26 years. There are features on big wave surfing, ice-trucks, the futuristic world of digital illustrator Dan Luvisi, an in-depth look at rugby, soccer and cricket SA’s coaching saga, and a lifestyle section that found a way of showcasing Cary Grant and the world’s top snowboarders in its fashion and grooming sections.