Sex and Publicity
"Sex positive gets better mainstream attention," Jennie Grant, co-owner of Shane's World, told XBiz. "It's easier to focus on the negative, but there are media outlets out there that are looking for that positive image."
Shane's World Studios was one of the first companies to pioneer the concept of reality-based porn. In 2003, the company gained mainstream notoriety with the release of "Shane's World 32: Campus Invasion."
The media frenzy that followed that trip to a college campus provided exposure on "Dateline NBC," "The O'Reilly Factor" and "MTV News." Rolling Stone gave Shane's World a four-page spread, and Shane's World also became the first adult company to be featured in an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog.
Indiana University officials launched an investigation and threatened to take legal action against Shane's World after its crew shot at the IU campus and used several students in the taping.
"[This] porn movie company has executed a brilliant public relations gimmick," one IU student told the campus newspaper. "The university could be fueling their fire by devoting excessive resources and manpower to the investigation."
Riding on the overwhelming success of the "Campus Invasion" title, Shane's World launched the "College Invasion" series.
"We are releasing Volume 7 in October," Grant said. "We literally get 100 emails a day asking when it is coming out."
The "College Invasion" series brings porn stars to college campuses all across the country, courting controversy and media attention along the way. Grant said that the company would release "as many of the popular titles as the market dictates."
"The Shane's World college series was a stroke of genius," said Mark Kulkis, president and CEO of Kick Ass Pictures. "I admire what they did. That's something they can do continuously because even though the campus administrators will continue to give them hell, the students will always support it."
Kulkis is no stranger to the glare of the mainstream spotlight. He has staged a number of highly successful media events to draw attention to his company.
"Mine is a creative boutique porn company," Kulkis said. "Any media event that I do reinforces that we are different, we're fun, we consider porn to be fun, and we only use all-natural girls. Not all the product out there is hardcore, raincoat stuff."
Kulkis, the former managing editor of AVN and director of publicity for Extreme Associates, looks no further than the morning news for opportunities to further brand his eight-year-old company in the public eye. And it's all accomplished with a wry sense of humor.
Mary Carey's Campaign
In 2003, busty Kick Ass contract star Mary Carey made a run for the California governor's seat with an eight-point plan for saving the state from financial ruin. The centerpiece of her campaign platform was a tax on breast implants.
The media didn't concern itself with the fact that the Carey gubernatorial campaign was a raw publicity stunt to increase the buxom blonde's name recognition and move merchandise out of the Kick Ass warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. It simply was a fun story, and they ran with it aggressively.
The publicity charade also led to a reconfiguration of the contract between Kick Ass and Carey, who was originally signed to six movies per year.
"She was originally on a salary," Kulkis told XBiz. "But after the governor's race, she suddenly got bigger. Anything she does in mainstream boosts her dance rate."
Kulkis offered Carey a unique incentive program: an ownership stake in her own movies.
"She gets a piece of the action on as many movies as she cares to make," Kulkis said.
Promoting Carey and the Kick Ass name is the driving force behind every mainstream grab Kulkis undertakes. In 2003, when Kulkis read about a new Defense Department policy offering free breast implants to women in the U.S. armed forces, he launched the "Bullets Not Boobs" campaign. Kulkis — who opposes implants and prides himself on the fact that Kick Ass only hires "all-natural performers" — offered $500 in lingerie and a day at a spa to any woman honorably discharged from the military with natural breasts.
"These media campaigns not only get my company name out there," Kulkis explained, "but they give a sense of what the company is all about. Any good PR campaign should serve to give the media and the public a sense of who your company is, what you are all about."
When Kulkis and Carey attended a Republican fundraising dinner that also was attended by President Bush (Kulkis is an honorary chairman of the National Republican Congressional Business Advisory Board), he not only promoted his company but the industry image as a whole.
"We showed the people in attendance that pornographers are ordinary business people," Kulkis said, "not Satanists that need to be banished from the face of the earth."
Grant of Shane's World agrees: "It's good to have sex-positive companies that the media can turn to."
In March, Shane's World launched the first Shane's World College Hottie Contest, inviting female college or university students ages 18-24 the chance to win $10,000 "to blow on whatever you want" if selected to appear in one of its movies. The Shane's World press release for the College Hottie Contest is laced with humor, not unlike the Kick Ass efforts:
"We do ask that you appear in one of our movies and are willing to do Playboy-style nudity," the Shane's World campaign stated. "I mean, c'mon, if Paris Hilton was willing to get freaky, you gotta at least get naked! Not only are we giving away $10,000, we are also giving away five Apple iPods! So even if you don't get the $10,000, at least you can listen to good music while sitting in class."
Shane's World also has just released its first gonzo movie, "Nerdz," a send-up of 1980s sex comedies.
"It's a new direction for us," Grant said. "And like all of our products, it's lighthearted."
The company also has hired Penny Flame as its first contract director. Flame is at work on a new line titled, "Girls Night Out."
In August 2004, the Society for Human Sexuality gave its Best Heterosexual Video Series award to Shane's World. The Society's awards recognize outstanding achievement in sex-positive culture and the fine arts on the West Coast.
According to the Society, "There's very little hetero porn out there that we'd consider 'sex-positive,' and the stuff that is [sex positive] sometimes tries so hard to be politically correct, it's no longer fun. Granted, the Shane's World series (mixed gender) and Slumber Party series (all-female) by this company aren't perfect, but they often have a lighthearted, fun and seemingly authentic feel, one that reminds us at least a little bit of sex as we usually think of it. Shane (a female director) and her friends genuinely seem to be having fun portraying real sex, and as such take this award."
Companies attempting to emulate the successful business models of Shane's World and Kick Ass Pictures — productions with humor, fun, and positive sexuality that attract media like moths to the proverbial flame — need to have a dependable contract girl as a spokesperson, Kulkis said.
"They need to be good in front of a mainstream camera," he said. "There's a big difference between reading a script and being thrown into a live press conference. They have to have the ability to hold a conversation with the camera. It's a rare quality, but if you come off looking good, they'll ask you back again."