Changing Landscape: Women Working In Adult Marketing
In the past decade or two the role of women as part of the business landscape has changed substantially, and in the adult industry where femininity and passion are an important part of the actual product being sold, the role of women as marketers may be the best example of the ways societal views are evolving as several savvy ladies lead the way toward new revenue streams, greater brand exposure and an expanded return on investment for the companies they represent. XBIZ sat down with top marketers who happen to be women and asked for their views on the experience of being a woman working in marketing adult businesses during the past, present and into the future.
One of the major factors advancing the careers of female marketers is the growing number of adult businesses owned and operated by women. Among the first to take that plunge, and a fine marketer in her own right, Billie of YanksCash.com entered the business side of the adult industry in early 2002 when she co-founded YanksCash.com with her partner Todd. “After getting my undergrad degree and deciding that I actually did not want to go on to study medicine as I had intended, I spent some time traveling and working various jobs until Todd and I decided to start Yanks.com. Since then, there’s been no looking back and I’ve worked in many capacities to ensure the continued growth and success of YanksCash,” said Billie. “I do have a lot of experience as a woman working in adult and in my experience, a woman, behind the scenes with a great deal of decision-making power has been uncommon and shocking to some. Early on, I was recruited numerous times for shoots at industry events. I was disappointed by a repetitive assumption that because I had boobs, I was the beauty and not the brains of the operation. I’ve also had to shy away from a handful of partnerships with some who seemed only to be comfortable dealing only with my male counterpart. All in all though, I think that the industry has matured in the 11 years I’ve been part of it. More than ever, I have female contacts at many of our partners and I don’t think that it is a novelty as it may have once been.”
Those early days of women in management blazing a trail for others have lead to a growing number of women carving out their own place in the adult industry and the marketing side of the business definitely appears to be a hot spot.
“The struggle for women in business is still prevalent, however as more intelligent and capable women business owners enter the industry, the less disenfranchised we become,” said Lauren MacEwen, social engagement provider and owner of 7Veils.com. “Women are often sexualized in business as a means to marginalize us. In mainstream this can be a significant detriment. To say that there are not struggles would be inaccurate, however being a business woman in adult is a two-sided coin. There are audiences where your gender is a strength and there are audiences where it is a weakness. Ultimately, my experience in adult has been your gender plays second fiddle to you ability to deliver. If you are good at what you do then you will be successful.
While Billie and Lauren see things primarily from an ownership perspective, other leading ladies of the adult industry have had the chance to witness things from many different vantage points.
“I have worked in marketing and the adult industry for the last 12 years in three distinct positions; as an affiliate manager for WEGCash; as COO for a marketing and media relations company; and in my current role of business development at Paxum said Ruth B. “I don’t believe gender matters when it comes to being a marketer. Each gender has their own advantages compared to the other gender, so ultimately I believe it balances out. The bottom line to me is, whether you’re a man or a woman, when you work in marketing you need to use every advantage or tool at your disposal to further expose the brand you are promoting and its products.”
As with their male counterparts, many women entered the adult industry after successful stints in other markets.
“I am the primary marketing strategist and business development manager for ATKingdom.com,” said Melissa Campos, business development manager for ATKingdom/AMK Empire. “Before accepting the position with ATKingdom, four years ago, I worked in real estate law for over 10 years with a focus on client retention and brand management. My position at ATKingdom is the first job I have had held in the adult field and I have worked in almost every position in the company with the idea of getting a feel for as much as possible so that I could better represent it. As affiliate manager I grew the affiliate program during a period of overall decline in affiliate markets and as head of DVD production I have doubled the monthly DVD output and increased profits for the company.”
With that high level of proven performance, it’s no surprise that Campos has always been more focused on corporate success than gender disparity.
“I am not really sure how to answer this question, as I am not a man so I do not know how easy or hard it is for my male counterparts to make deals. I do not believe I have had a harder time in this industry as apposed to the mainstream legal field that I was in before accepting this position with ATKingdom. In any field it is a matter of putting yourself out there and talking to people. As with any business, some deals work and some do not, that is just the name of the game. In marketing you are always thinking ahead and you need to figure out what someone will be interested in three to six months out, that is what makes the job more difficult and those thoughts would seem to be just as relevant to any male in the marketing segment of the industry.”
While the similarities for males and females in business do continue to grow and the gender of a person seems to be fading as a factor in determining eventual levels of success, that doesn’t mean everything is identical on either side of the gender gap.
“I wouldn’t say being a woman is better or worse than being a man in the marketing side of adult. It’s just different,” said Anne Hodder, CEO and founder of Hodder Media Inc. “It took some time for industry members to ask for my business card instead of the URL to my solo site, but branding myself through networking and hard work quickly took care of that issue. Topics of conversation at trade shows and industry events can occasionally veer into unprofessional territory but it’s my responsibility as a woman and business owner to set boundaries and stick to them —and I’ve garnered industry-wide respect for it. In this day and age (eek, I sound like my parents) success in the adult industry comes with having good judgment and a smart mind rather than a penis or vagina. But I will say with 100 percent confidence that being a girl at work, at play and in life is way more fun.”
After eight years in the industry, including six years as an affiliate manager focusing on solo girl websites and working her way up to becoming the COO of the popular live webcam site Chaturbate.com, PunkerBarbie agrees.
“Other than the occasional downfall of being confused for a model, I think being a girl in the porn industry is a good thing,” PunkerBarbie says. “We are more likely to book the sales pitch meetings and people remember you, which is great when it comes to networking.”
For other female marketers in adult the key continues to be the growing ranks of other women who can work together to benefit each other. “I believe being a female publicist works to my advantage. Most of my clients are women and they know I can relate to them on a different level than a man can,” said Erika Icon of TheRUBPR.com “This is still a maledominated business, but I’m happy to see more women in the industry not only becoming publicists, but also holding down key roles at studios and other adult-oriented companies.”
As the owner of The Rub PR, Erika Icon, who has eight years experience working in many facets of the industry, brings experience as a retail buyer, writer, sex advice columnist, DVD marketer, website owner, toy reviewer and publicist to the table any time she works to promote another brand.
Business relationships with performers, studio owners, sales personnel, distributors and magazines have helped her promote her clients and their brands effectively in adult by also bringing some of them into the mainstream market as well. While all of that might have happened if Icon was male, there are no guarantees the level of success would have been similar and in an industry focused on performance rather than gender it’s the track record that matters much more than the number of X chromosomes possessed by people doing business with you.
In-house marketing efforts are essential for mainstream brands but many top marketers have found the freedom of working in adult to be much more satisfying.
“In 2002 I was working as an in-house web developer and marketer in mainstream. I had a very religious coworker who was extremely aggressive about sharing their faith,” said Ananda Sisk of CommerceGate. “I’m not one to complain either to or about co-workers, so when I’d finally had enough, I looked on Craigslist and saw an ad that said something like, ‘Do you have web skills? Come work in adult and double or triple your salary!’
“I figured there wouldn’t be many people like my office mate in adult, so I applied. That was how I got my first job in the industry at RealityCash working for Adult.com, GFY, ICS and Playboy a decade ago. I’ve never regretted it! Since then I’ve worked for Playboy, Mansion Productions and CommerceGate, where I currently work as sales director.”
“I’d love to say that your gender doesn’t make a difference in this or any other industry, but I’d be lying. I feel it is a benefit for us that strong women are rare enough to be novel in this industry. It gives us the advantage of seeming more interesting and approachable for new business opportunities. The draw backs are some expected inappropriate solicitations and the rare fellow who just can’t seem to take a woman in business seriously. However, all in all, over the last decade in the industry, I’ve seen gender become less important as the industry matures into an ever more professional environment.”
As the gender gap shrinks, the disadvantages of being a woman will fade, but women entering the industry need to also understand that the advantages of being a woman are likely to become less valuable as well. Show me your tits may be a very rude and inappropriate comment for anyone to make toward a potential business partner, but now that those sorts of ploys are off the table, only the women with real abilities will be able to prosper as those who were just a pretty face quickly get washed out alongside all the fun but unhelpful men who have exited the industry in droves during the last decade.
Perhaps the most successful women in marketing will be the ones who manage to blend a sense of feminine seduction into their sales pitch while simultaneously avoiding any sense of impropriety. Oscar Wilde was recently quoted in the popular show “House of Cards” for once saying, “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”
Celine of TotemCash.com explained it best.
“Being a woman remains a wonderful strength when it comes to negotiation because business negotiation always goes with seduction,” Celine said. “The first contact is like a game, and phrasing things in an elegantly seductive way can allow a woman to gain an advantage without discarding her credibility. The second step is where loyalty, reciprocal help and strong business value develops ... but having a chance to reach step two requires being able to navigate step one effectively.
“I started in the industry in 2001 with Totem Cash after a few years at the headquarter of a big telemarketing company,” Celine said. “In the adult industry, there is a strong willingness to share aspects of our personal selves while building business relationships. Fixing a broken link or helping to test a new marketing campaign is important. However, it’s the personal touch of helping business associates plan their visit to Paris, or listening to their personal pains that really sets people who happen to work you apart from the people really want to work with you —and that connection is often the difference between barely surviving or building a business empire.
XBIZ is proud of our own leading lady as well on the marketing side of our operations as well.
“I really enjoy being on the marketing side of the industry,” said Kristen Kaye, the executive director of business development for XBIZ. “Playing a hand in sales, public relations, marketing and event planning/management affords me the opportunity to stay at the forefront of what businesses are doing daily. Being a woman in the business seems to play a role when it comes to events. I find that creativity, paying attention to details are all the strengths of a female (generally speaking). At the end of the day however, I believe that regardless of your gender, if you work hard, stay disciplined, respect yourself and others, you will have great success in this business or any other.
For decades the adult industry has used the term XXX to describe the kind of hardcore passion being portrayed on screen for fans. Perhaps in 2013 it’s actually XX that best expresses the level of hardcore passion being put into all the behind the scenes marketing work done by many of the top marketers online.
Two X chromosomes may not be an advantage, but a savvy understanding of the market, keen eye for branding opportunities and the ability to generate real return on investment is making it easier than ever for important traits of skill and ability to outshine trivial attributes like age or gender.