It’s research. Really. A vintage magazine – particularly those aimed at men or women looking for love – is an invaluable resource if you’re writing about another time period. Wikipedia or your basic Time-Life retrospective is fine for a sound bite, but for a glimpse into how the sexes perceived each other and interacted, check out the magazines they read – and don’t skim over the ads! By studying what – and how – advertisers sold their wares, you’ll find clues to what people of that time period wanted.What am I doing with a ’63 Playboy?
To illustrate, I’ll use the August ’63 Playboy which I referenced in my last blog. On page 30, an ad blares, “Snap! It’s open! Beer cans will never be the same.” The pull tab is referred to as a “new opening convenience” brought to you by Alcoa. It puts into perspective just how long ago and far away 1963 actually was. Another time warp ad on page 34 asks, “Do $5.95 slacks go with a $15 sport shirt?” For the researcher, the question is a window into the fashion and economy of 1963.
My favorite ad, page 64, asks “What sort of man reads Playboy?” The answer in August is, “a young man about town and country who draws freely from the good things in life, the Playboy reader leads the pack when it comes to lighting up – a smoke or a girl’s eyes. Facts: Copy for copy, Playboy has more male smokers than any other magazine. What’s more, their taste for tobacco is as selective in form and shape as their choice of a playful playmate. 64.5% smoke cigarettes. 25.8% prefer the satisfaction of a fine cigar. 23.4% take pleasure in a pipe. This is the audience with buying power – enough to spark a new trend, or add a new glow to established brands.” The bottom of the ad lists Playboy’s advertising offices.
Just to be clear – this pitch is not targeted at cigarette manufactures. Smoking was merely something hip cool playboys did. The December 1963 “What Sort of Man Reads Playboy” reads: “A discerning young city dweller with an elegant eye for luxurious living, the Playboy reader is as selective with his appointments as he is with his dates. And he settles on only the best when it comes to making an impression in the right quarters. Facts: With a median household income of over $10,000 he has the money and manner to live life well-upholstered, can easily afford the fine furnishings compatible with his social and business status. To move your product with success, use the magazine he lives by – Playboy.”
And on page 141, “Fun at hand – the Playboy Puppet. Add a bright touch to any gathering with this captivating puppet modeled after the famous Playboy rabbit. As a gift, or for yourself. It’s the perfect thing for off-the-cuff amusement.”
These are the ads in one issue. In my next blog, I’ll summarize the Playboy Philosophy column, in which Hef himself dispenses incredibly politically incorrect advice about dating and mating.