Continuing my apparent dominance of Chivalry House in October, here’s a little story that’s vaguely related to the work we do (well, it’s about brands, and we’ve got brands in our title).
Marge Simpson, matriarch of the yellow, four-fingered clan of the same name, has posed for Playboy to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Simpsons as a show in it’s own right (it started in ’87 as sketches on the Tracey Ullman, breaking free in ’89 on it’s own). Aside from the fact a TV show that gets past four series is on its way to legendary status (Two Pints of Lager notswithstanding), this is an interesting arrangement for both.
The Simpsons, whilst perhaps not reaching the critical heights of its earlier series, is a huge brand that shows few signs of waning. Playboy, on the other hand, is a shadow of its former self, and as confused about its brand identity as any company has ever been. Is it a porno? Is it a literary mag (don’t laugh, some big literary guns have written for it)? Is it a guide for gentlemen, a sort of GQ-esque establishment? I don’t think it helps that the man who embodies its supposed qualities is a parody of his younger self. Hugh Hefner tries to maintain his image of a debonair, sophisticated man of means and taste, yet hasn’t adjusted his approach to this image to cater for his advancing years. What worked at forty doesn’t work at eighty.
The magazine itself has suffered at the hands of a wider malaise affecting the print industry. Its online brands have been undermined by the proliferation of free porn sites, and overall it is unable to shake the feeling that its really just grot for kids without the balls to buy the proper stuff. This is a shame, as it could have been one of the great journals. As mentioned above, big name writers (with both commercial and critical clout) have contributed to its pages, with Stephen King on the front cover of the Simpson issue. If it hadn’t gone down the pseudo-Nuts/Zoo route, it might be a brand that makes it to the second half of the 21st century. At the moment, only the Simpsons seem poised to get beyond the next few years.