Thursday, April 13, 2006

Here comes Peter Cautionary Tale.

This, in a brilliantly ironic twist, is my Easter post. You see, my favourite brand story of the week is the uproar in Indonesia against the launch of Playboy magazine there. (Bunny? Easter? Get it? I slay myself…). The first issue recently hit the newsstands in that far off dominion, and almost instantly, er, aroused a firestorm of controversy and protest on moral grounds.

But here’s the thing. In its piece on the story this morning, the Globe and Mail soberly advised us that pornography has long been widely available in the region. And, apparently, the Playboy magazine in question didn’t even contain any naked pictures. So, why the outrage?

Here’s what I think. I think it’s hard to protest against a market driven phenomenon because, as Pogo famously put it, “the enemy… is us”. But it’s easy to protest against an invading nation. And as threatening nations go, Playboy has it all: A despot, an alien value system, a flag, aircraft, a uniformed service, propaganda and cocktail napkins. And decadent? Oh, man.

Well, Playboy should have known better. If they were simply selling their product, they could probably find custom anywhere on the planet. But they’ve spent more than half a century building a comprehensive brand ethos that disguises pornography as lifestyle and titillation as intellectual discourse. As soon as you start selling values, you are at the mercy of cultural relevance. Mostly, that’s a pretty cool place for a brand to be. But it also imposes limits. Sell dirty pictures to an individual, and you’re only up against his tastes and personal ethics. Sell a cult of decadence to a society of people with a strict moral code, and you’re just asking to get spanked and sent home. And not in a fun way, either.

So all this probably serves ol' Hef right.

And if anyone asks, I only look at the internet for the articles.