There’s a long and pedestrian business article here about the decline of the Playboy empire and the signs (faint though they are) that Hugh Hefner may finally, at age 83, be tired of maintaining his playboy image. But what struck me was the abject cluelessness of the last three paragraphs, two of which (after subtracting a paragraph of standard-story boilerplate filler) propose’s Peter Acworth as the next “Mr. Playboy”:

But if Hefner sells up, who might take his place as Mr Playboy? The leading contender is Midlands-born Peter Acworth, a former Barings banker and founded of, a suite of S&M and bondage-themed websites.

Acworth, 39, says he got the idea after he read in a British tabloid about a fireman who sold pornographic pictures on the internet. “He had made a quarter of a million pounds over a short period doing nothing very clever at all. So I basically just ripped off that idea.”

It’s a long way from bunny ears;’s brand icon is a forked tail.

On the one hand, it’s illuminating that should be considered one of the strongest brands in porn, that it could be compared to Playboy in any fashion. But this business writer — although clear on the meaning of the Playboy brand — has obviously failed to grasp the central branding connotations that have made what it is today. Playboy has always had an iconic individual (Hefner) living it up with the models, with a wink and a nudge as to the propriety of same. (To be fair, Playboy’s photographers have a reputation for running clean and professional shoots.) But is known for being holier than the Pope when it comes to professionalism and clean dealing with its models. It needs this reputation because of the edgy nature of its kinky material. Trying to cast Acworth in a Hefnerian role — something he’s shown no sign of wanting — would be an epic disaster for the brand.

It’s probably true that we’ll see Acworth, along with a rich cast of his dominant hirelings, being waited on hand and foot by naked slaves once the forthcoming reality-show site The Upper Floor (think Roissy meets Real World) goes live on the top floor of his San Francisco Armory castle of kink. But for Hefner-level striving-after-celebrity, he’d need to pull up at the Erotic Exotic Ball in a carriage pulled by a dozen prancing pony girls, and I don’t think we’ll see him going there.

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