Bob Christian: Mad Hatter of Adam & Eve
Bob Christian has been at the power center of Adam & Eve for about a quarter century now. He started in one of Harvey’s “nonsex- related” firms, a direct-marketing vitamin operation that sold to individuals through offers in credit card statements. Today, Christian wears a number of hats. He is still (“technically,” he says) the head of new business, even as he runs the movie operation and keeps a hand in store operations, too. A member of the core management team, Christian is involved to some degree in everything from accounting to marketing, so his MBA from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill comes in quite handy.
XBIZ spoke with the manyhatted Christian in late September.
XBIZ: Of your many roles with Adam & Eve, where is your major focus?
BC: Presently, most of my time is spent with Adam & Eve Pictures, where I call myself the general manager. We’re not real formal about titles. I stay involved with the stores as much as possible, because it’s a huge growth area. I wear several hats, and technically I’m still head of new business, but I haven’t been as active there as I once was and feel I should do more.
XBIZ: In your time in the adult biz, what has changed the most?
BC: Delivery of content, certainly. We’ve gone from VHS to DVD to VOD, and from the adult theater to the living room to the Web, mobile and portables. Technological progress always has a profound impact on this industry, from types of content to ways of doing business, so “new” models are forever in flux. Another major change has been in brick-andmortar stores, which were the clichéd “adult bookstores” just 15 years ago. Today, the trend is clearly toward clean, inviting, upscale stores that are couples- and women-friendly. Adam & Eve’s stores were in the first wave of the new model.
XBIZ: On the flip side, what timeless principles or strategies remain as the gold standard?
BC: The number one priority, which will never change, is satisfying the customers’ wants and needs. The challenge is to do so while making a profit, at least eventually, to be sustainable.
XBIZ: How has Adam & Eve responded to the recession?
BC: DVD decline has impacted us more, but all our various businesses have remained stable during the last few years of economic troubles. Demand remains strong for “mini mental-fantasy vacations,” which customers get with the purchase of inexpensive, fun adult products. It’s affordable so you don’t have to give it up during tough times. I don’t make economic predictions since we are a cyclical industry in a cyclical world. I am a bit of an optimist, though. We will all get through this one way or another.
XBIZ: The public mood has shifted over the years. What is the “tenor of the times” vis-àvis porn?
BC: With the exception of, say, Kathie Lee Gifford, the media and the public are increasingly accepting of adult products, and of sex itself as something that can be seen and talked about. It simply isn’t taboo anymore. This is great for our industry and increases exposure, which is not always positive, but mostly so. As mainstream “big box” companies open up their doors and sites to adult products it creates a more competitive environment, with price and cost pressures adult firms are not used to.
XBIZ: What about government pressure? Does the John Stagliano case, despite the dismissal, signal a new era of porn prosecutions?
BC: I doubt it. Phil Harvey recently commented that he thinks we’re getting a reprieve from new prosecutions. The Obama Administration didn’t start John’s case. It needed to run its course, and it did, with the proper result.
XBIZ: How goes the fight against piracy that you’ve been involved with for so long?
BC: I wish I had time to be more involved. It is difficult enough to figure out the new business model for content delivery without having hightech theft in the equation. The president of Private recently declared that he has stopped caring about piracy, and almost welcomes it. I am far from sharing that perspective, for now anyway. We try to stay focused on the long-term view, but it’s tough. Survival is essential but I hope that whatever survival techniques we adopt will maintain the integrity and dignity that keep us poised for the long haul. I am troubled by some current practices, like unsustainably low pricing and deceptive product marketing.
XBIZ: You say you don’t like making predictions, but tell our readers — your friends, foes, colleagues, competitors and peers — where you think this industry is headed. What will people think about porn in 2020?
BC: Neither sex nor porn will ever be uncontroversial. Porn should, and will, stay edgy and exotic, and definitely naughty, and will always be a little too personal for some. In 2020, or 2120 for that matter, folks will be pretty much like they are today. Their private fantasies and desires will simply be satisfied in different ways, with more advanced delivery methods and technologies. The subject matter, however, is timeless, so I have no doubt that Adam & Eve will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2070 or so. XBIZ will be on the guest list, so save the date.