Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 18:57 UK

Playboy reviews UK sales displays

By Duncan Bartlett
BBC News, business reporter, Brussels

Playboy magazine cover
Playboy has always claimed to be more than a pornographic magazine

Playboy has said it will review how its products are sold in the UK after one retailer placed its branded stationery near merchandise for children.

The shop display prompted an angry reaction from the Reverend Tim Jones, who pulled it down and complained the firm was selling directly to children.

Playboy Enterprises said goods bearing its famous bunny logo were aimed primarily at 18 to 34 year olds.

Playboy said it was surprised the goods were "inappropriately positioned".

Mr Jones says his protest at a branch of Stationery Box in York was prompted by anger at finding Playboy goods next to items bearing pictures of Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh.

He said it was "wicked" to groom children for their commercial exploitation by the sex industry.

Playboy said: "We will be reviewing this situation immediately."

"We clearly did not authorise, nor approve, the placement of our product next to well-known children's characters," it added.

'Urban, trendy'

Playboy was founded in 1953 by the American entrepreneur Hugh Hefner. It is best known as a magazine, featuring pictures of naked women.

Playboy's boss Christie Hefner, daughter of the founder, said that her company has been targeting females rather than children, and that 80% of the people who buy the firm's branded goods were women.

They are normalising pornography by making their brand a household name
Beatriz Concejo, Object

Under her leadership, goods bearing the bunny logo - a rabbit's head wearing a bow tie - can be found on everything from pillow cases to dustbins.

"Our products represent a brand that is urban, trendy, stylish and sophisticated," she told the BBC.

Gareth Pitman who teaches branding at the University College of the Creative Arts said Playboy had been clever in how they had used their image.

"They have looked at the positives in their imagery and played along with that, particularly the aspirational aspects of a Playboy lifestyle," he said.

"There will be people who are shocked but I do not think the company will be too worried if it cannot convert them."

'R-rated movie'

Not everyone agrees and for some observers the company and its logo represents little other than a firm which profits from pornography.

While branded goods make up a chunk of its earnings, most of Playboy's other income comes from broadcasting, including adult pay TV channels with explicit content.

"By making their brand acceptable they're making everything they do acceptable, including the pornography they promote through their TV channels," said Beatriz Concejo from the pressure group Object.

"They are normalising pornography by making their brand a household name."

Playboy is used to criticism and claims that its is simply giving consumers a choice.

"We all understand that young people, both young women and young men, aspire to grow up and I am sure that there are young women who would love to wear Playboy merchandise," said Playboy boss Ms Hefner.

"Whether they should or not is up to their parents to decide, in much the same the way parents have to decide whether someone who is a minor is ready and mature enough to see an R-rated movie."

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