Jimmy Jellinek, Editorial Director and Chief Content Officer
What does your role mean to the daily operations of PB?
"Beyond putting out the magazine and making sure it lives up to not only its legacy, but the demands and influences of the contemporary reader, I help the larger brand connect the dots of what it stands for, by creating a compelling narrative in the magazine and other media platforms. Even one story can be the engine that propels the brand from licensing to location-based entertainment. It's the voice we put out to the rest of the world, and gives the products we create context, meaning, and value."
Apart from the new building, what has changed most for you since the rebrand?
"The magazine has gone through a significant metamorphosis from a design, photography, cover treatment, and content standpoint. There's a greater emphasis on service to the reader, providing them with the tools and know-how to lead the 'good life.' We're constantly trying to reinvent the notion of what it means to be the Playboy Man in 2013, and lead the discussion on the return to classic masculinity that's the dominant paradigm in men's culture. The idea that a male can look good, covet consumer goods, but also be a person of substance, caring about ideas, being charitable, and having a global outlook is essential to his make-up. We're chasing the individual who cares about style, but doesn't necessarily concern himself with fashion. In essence, it's an effortless swagger that's more about confidence than an obsession with labels. It's the idea that smart is sexy, smart is cool, and the magazine reflects that by providing the audience with a long-form experience that's luxurious in tone and feel. In today's 24/7 media culture, where everybody is always on, the two biggest luxuries are time and quiet. The ability to unplug and read, to have an analog experience that isn't being broadcast on Twitter, is something that's a necessity for today’s man. Beyond that, it’s the experiential qualities of the brand that one can't duplicate. No one else has the ability to transport its audience to a fantasy beyond their wildest dreams, from the magazine to our clubs and licensed goods. The Playboy lifestyle exists in the flesh — excuse the pun — and no other brand can really claim that. The publication exists to amplify that idea and give it shape and narrative."
Who's your favorite cover model of all-time, and why?
"I can't pick a favorite because every model represents a time and the moment of zeitgeist that created the need for her to be on the cover in the first place. Our strategy moving forward is to rely less on cover talent since the notion of celebrity in today’s reality-industrial complex has become devalued. As Hef once famously said, 'What used to be a thick porridge, is now a thin soup.' The idea, rather, is to find the world's greatest photographers from Mario Sorrenti to Michael Bernard — both who've shot recent covers — and create brand-defining iconic imagery that will stand out on the newsstand but also be coffee-table worthy, reflecting the values and direction of Playboy as a brand. It's a return to the past, and only in our recent past of our 60-year heritage celebrities have graced the cover. While we'll choose A-list stars and models if the opportunity is right, the emphasis is on the imagery and creating a complete package that is on-brand from cover to cover."
What article do you feel has held the most weight in the company's lengthy history?
"To this day, the magazine continues to push the boundaries of journalism, competing against the likes of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. This would include our recently published 'Playmate as Fine Art,' where we had today's most important contemporary artists interpret the playmate conceptually. Contributors included Richard Prince, Will Cotton, Cindy Sherman, Wes Lang, Tracey Emin, and Ryan McGuinness. The feature itself will become a temporary exhibit at Art Basel. From a pure journalism standpoint, I'm most proud of our continued coverage of global events, most importantly the so-called 'Arab Spring.' We had people on the ground in Tahir Square, and continue to follow the story as the spring has begun to turn into a confusing fall. Beyond that, we've sneaked reporters into North Korea, and have had a constant presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. At any given moment there's reporting from across the globe on topics from the Mexican drug war to where to get the best cocktails in America."
"This mixture of high and low, hard reporting, and bullet-proof service is the mix that makes us so successful as a journalistic enterprise. The Oscar winning film The Hurt Locker is based on a Playboy feature entitled, 'The Man in the Bomb Proof Suit,' by Mark Boal. Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Vladimir Nabokov, John Updike, Norman Mailer, and Saul Bellow have contributed to our legacy. In terms of our heritage, it's impossible to choose. No one has printed what we've printed. Added together, it's the perfect record of the political and cultural history of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Playboy Interview is the gold standard of magazine features. We've had Martin Luther King, Fidel Castro, Jimmy Carter, Ayn Rand, Jean Paul Sartre, Malcom X, John Lennon, Bowie, Dylan, Sinatra, and more recently Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, Richard Dawkins, Quentin Tarrantino, and Frank Gehry. Coming up soon, we'll publish an interview that will blow people's minds in its scope and our ability to find the individual and get him to speak on work."
What's the coolest perk to your gig?
"I get to work with the most talented and creative minds in art and journalism. We succeed on the basis of our talented staff and contributors, and this not only inspires me, but motivates me to create an environment where everybody can produce to the peak of their talents without restriction. The only rule is to be brilliant — beyond that it's a process of controlled chaos, channeling that brilliance into a product every month that inspires and provokes our audience."
What's your favorite aspect of the new Civic Center space?
"The space in its entirety is a testament and living, breathing manifestation of the brand. It's architecturally important, features artwork from our biggest contributors like Andy Warhol, who created covers and inside work for the magazine in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. Beyond that, to simply have the company all under one roof creates opportunities for communication and ideation that never existed when the brand was split amongst three different cities."
Tell us your most exciting experience at PB thus far.
"We have a rule that what happens at Playboy, stays at Playboy."
Have you had any interesting interactions with Hef that you'd care to share?
"I work with Hef on a daily basis. As the editor-in-chief of the magazine, he has the final word on everything we publish. It's my job to channel his vision through the pages of the magazine and translate it to our readers — not just in print, but across all of our media platforms. There's nobody who knows more than Hef about the craft of magazine making: what works, what doesn't, and the pacing of the book. He literally created the entire notion of not just a lifestyle magazine, but a lifestyle brand. Just like EF Hutton, 'When he speaks, people listen.'"
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Jimmy Jellinek, Editorial Director and Chief Content Officer