Getting Native With Playboy: Making Branded Content Programs Work [#CZLNY]

Robin Zucker is the senior vice president of digital marketing at Playboy, and during her session at ClickZ Live New York she discussed the company’s approach to branded content, how to get noticed, and how to best measure content.

Zucker joked that Hugh Hefner was the first person to work from home –pajamas and all. And that’s just one of the things that is embedded in the Playboy DNA – others include nightlife, lifestyle, style, entertainment, Playmates, and Bunnies. Because these are all part of the Playboy identity, the content follows that theme.

When creating content, Playboy first looks to the legacy and then works to translate it into something more relevant for today. When thinking about going native and partnering for content, Playboy started with its “sharable stories.”

Zucker says that because the Playboy brand is a publisher, they have a great team of content producers and no shortage of content. People really do read Playboy for the articles, she says, in addition to the other stuff.

So with all that in mind, Playboy relaunched its website with a “safe for work” strategy in 2014. Everything was “PG-13” and there was no nudity at anymore. According to reports, the brand saw a 258 percent lift year-over-year in global unique visitors after the relaunch.


So the brand has grown, and that means the audience is growing. How? Zucker says it’s about fishing where the fish are. How do you connect with the consumer? How do you design content for a specific platform?


At Playboy, the home target is the Web property, says Zucker, but access is across channels. Seventy-five percent of their Web traffic is mobile, she says, and so the site is mobile responsive and the content strategy is mobile, too (lots of video).

And the social audience is huge, says Zucker. Playboy starts by focusing on primary platforms and then looking at secondary platforms next. Everything on social media leads back to the website except for Snapchat, which is a different type of content approach.

Branded Content Case Study 1: Stoli Vodka

Nightlife is part of Playboy’s DNA, and Stoli was looking to partner with the brand for the “playbook” on nightlife, so they created content around lifestyle. The playbook lived on the Playboy website as a hub, and they packaged content they were already creating, and also put it in print.

As part of that, they created a custom video series that paired a Playmate and “mixologist” to make drinks together. Here, the Playmates are influencers and the mixologists are, too.

They integrated the video across all social platforms and garnered hundreds of thousands of views off the site, as well as some on the site.

Branded Content Case Study 2: Red Bull

Red Bull-sponsored bike rider Danny MacAskill visited the Playboy Mansion where they videotaped some spontaneous bike riding tricks alongside Playboy Bunnies. The branding was very subtle, as Red Bull typically is with its content.

This video received more than 4 million views and millions of impressions on social media. Ultimately, it helped the two brands leverage one another’s audience.

So, how do you measure? Zucker says that when Playboy partners with an advertiser, they ask what the goals are and it’s not necessarily a transaction. Here’s how they approach measuring:


A few final thoughts from Zucker on branded content as she wrapped up her discussion:

  • Make your content authentic
  • Create content for each platform, not just the website
  • Design programs for your KPIs; not everything can be measured, but figure out what can be

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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