“[The adult industry] is an industry where they exaggerate the size of everything.” David Klatell, ssociate Dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, claimed in 2001. It seems that we have the perfect headline here.
Adult entertainment is now reported to be worth $100 billions dollars. Despite global revenue dipping circa 2007, mostly owed to the amount of free material available on the web, the x-rated industry makes up 69% pay-per-view Internet content. We must admit that the adult-oriented industry has benefited massively from a shift in general consensus and opinion worldwide. More so than ever, people are craving for authentic content and the younger audience is ostensibly more liberal than the previous generation. Nevertheless, the x-rated industry doesn’t have the luxury of being able to publicly showcase widely their offerings (most of the platforms don’t allow any suggestive content on their feed). How does a company that embodies and profits from one of society’s biggest taboos translate its adult content into something that entices people, whilst remaining on the good side of an increasing business?
Pornhub, the largest porno platform in the world, has the most impressive stats with almost 100 billions videos viewed in 12 months. More than 60 million visits, per day. Over 4,599,000,000 hours of videos digested. 729 visitors per second over came to have a look through the last decade. That all has built its brand name up with tactical advertising, philanthropy and, in turn, has landed itself featured in popular culture – arguably blurring the lines of this already opaque industry when it comes to mainstream advertising. Pornhub Vice President Corey Price notes, “For us, it’s really just about making ourselves visible in unexpected places. The goal with a lot of what we do is to make [the adult industry] a part of conversations that it typically hasn’t been, like we’ve done with music, fashion and philanthropy, for instance.”
Give People What They Want
Using consumer data in am=n entertaining way is damn effective. People know what they like and, when you know what they like too, you can serve your product in a way that is enticing. Pornhub has unexpectedly become a leader in delivering data-driven pieces of content and campaigns, overcoming the potential shortfalls of incognito browsing and ad-blockers. Running a successful micro-site like Pornhub Insights have allowed the brand to demonstrate detailed research and analysis into current trends, geo-localization preferences and drill down into segmenting its audience and understanding exactly what they like. “Our data blog PornHub Insights has played a major part in this. We utilize our data and trends to make interesting SFW (safe for work) content that people love to read about and share. The media, and in turn our readers, have really responded well to it over the years, and it has been a great way for us to create conversations about our brand in a SFW and sharable way.” A great example of how Pornhub cashed in on its audience’s interests were with the birth of PornHub Records. Simply put, the brand saw its audience liked rap, so they started a hip-hop label. Pornhub launched a national song search contest, offering up $5,000 to make a music video that would be placed on Pornhub TV, with a minimum of 500,000 views – guaranteed. The contest received submissions from rap featuring mature lyrics, right through to what has been dubbed as “erotic folk.” The overlap between Pornhub and the music industry has been ongoing for years, with artists such as Xiu Xiu and FaltyDL debuting clips and music videos on the website, accumulating nearly 73,000 views in the space of 8 months.
Everybody Likes A Laugh
When advertising in the adult industry, you often have to skirt about your product offering, and this usually comes in the form of humor. I mean, if you can’t talk about it, you may as well laugh about it? Humor generates word-of-mouth marketing: “did you hear about the April Fools stunt [brand] pulled?” or “did you see that advert [brand] put out? It’s unbelievable!” This dialogue is invaluable for marketers and helps establish a positive brand reputation. Hero content and campaigns don’t need to scream “adult industry”, in fact, they don’t always need to scream “we offer this service and we’re the best”, sometimes being subtle is enough to generate a buzz and get your brand name out there. Having an x-rated brand in a regulated industry picked up in the mainstream press is an achievement in itself, partly owed to Pornhub’s knack for creating and distributing stand-out advertisements and content that remains family-friendly and ethical.
Brands in regulated industries can almost “marry into” the mainstream by striking up unlikely partnerships. Finding a mainstream business to partner with something x-rated is a big portion of the battle, but once that’s overcome, the results can be mutually beneficial. Eat24 is a fast food delivery app and website, serving over 1,500 cities in the United States. A few years ago, in its infancy, Eat24 began a partnership with none other than Pornhub. This risky move by Eat24 landed its adverts on the Pornhub console, largely due to Pornhub offering cheap advertising spaces, as it’s quite a niche site to be featured on and the incomparable amount of traffic the site consistently generates. Research conducted by Eat24 found that in the top 100 sites visited in America, a number were in the adult-industry. The unorthodox move worked in Eat24’s favour, as the advertisements on the site featured on the front-page of the overly critical Reddit’s /r/advertising subreddit and gained coverage on many websites. Not only was this a huge success for Eat24, but it also allowed Pornhub to receive mention and coverage on the Eat24 website, a predominantly mainstream business in an incredibly mainstream industry.
From alcohol to tobacco, gambling to the adult sites, regulated industries tend to innately have an unfavorable reputation. This isn’t usually reflective on the specific brand itself, but is rather a predisposition that is age-old and reflective of the past and attitudes gone by. In regulated industries, it’s easy to be deemed irresponsible, offensive or influential (and not in a good way). The adult industry is more than accustomed to this. Tackling these perceptions is often done using philanthropy, promoting an external cause that generally seeks to improve the welfare of the public or the planet. A prime example of this is Pornhub’s “Give America Wood” campaign. Behind the mischievous title, the cause is dedicated to planting 1 tree for every 100 videos viewed. https://www.pornhub.com/event/arborday
The PornHub Cares content is filled with a continuous stream of philanthropy causes, from offering scholarships worth $25k, saving pandas or offering sex education to the young. These charitable campaigns are meticulously thought out and presented, often having little in common with Pornhub’s general branding. These campaigns are a far cry from the adult industry’s general offering, yet are an effective way to produce ethical content that resonates with a wider audience. The idea that an industry that is usually perceived as “bad”, can use its worldwide publicity to do something “good” is a step to change pre-conceptions.
Be Bold, Not Boring
Having to comply with rigid rules and restrictions can often deflate marketers. Having to jump through certain hoops to have any content or campaign aired can become monotonous, however, something that Pornhub can teach is that you don’t have to be boring. You can still be bold: it just requires a little more thinking. Pornhub launched a campaign named “Sexploration.” The purpose of the fundraiser was to raise money so the company could direct and shoot its first ever space scene; an ambitious and bold idea for any brand to execute. Despite seemingly failing to raise the costs to cover this space-endeavor, Pornhub massively profited from the campaign and nearly every major media company worldwide covered the mission, gaining PR traction that even a hefty budget would struggle to achieve.
Taking a leap of faith and executing an idea that might seem a little too “out there” has the potential to organically generate unparalleled word-of-mouth and PR benefits.
It is possible to market the unmarketable. Promoting x-rated companies and businesses in a regulated industry is possible with ethical, SFW tactics, as market-leader Pornhub has continually demonstrated through its 10-year history. With data on your side, humor in your copy, friends in high places, an empathetic team in your office and bold ideas on your drawing board, you can build a global perception for even the most NSFW company….suitable for (almost) everybody.