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Branding X

Michael McClay
Arrow Productions, widely considered the oldest established American adult video company is not only porndom's original trailblazer, but the Las Vegas-based company also has the distinction of being a leading pioneer in the area of special marketing. In recent times Arrow further expanded its impact into the merchandising and branding arena, licensing its titles for products in addition to its core business of manufacturing and distributing sex videos.

Arrow has made a significant impact in the energy beverage marketplace with the release of the Deep Throat Energy Drink in May 2007. Then a year later, Arrow made its second big marketing splash with the publication of the first of a series of comic books with "Debbie Does Dallas," followed by three other titles: "Candy Stripers," "The Devil in Miss Jones" and "Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here." Finally, licensing theatrical posters for "Deep Throat," "Debbie Does Dallas," "Candy Stripers" and "The Goddaughter" completed a third major merchandising coup in a process that the company considers the wave of the future. Plans for other items are in development and will be announced when ready.

The long and colorful history of Arrow Productions itself is the stuff of legend and the company's Marketing Director Robert Interlandi — who carries the banner as a second-generation member of the organization — has created quite an impact.

"Even though our business is controversial to mainstream, our industry's marketing approach is surprisingly stale and static by today's Madison Avenue standards," says Interlandi. "Mainstream companies market products on cable and the Internet that really push the envelope."

About four years ago, Interlandi presented a marketing/licensing idea to Arrow management including a list of consumer product tie-ins. "I thought of what George Lucas did with 'Star Wars' merchandising and we thought we could do the same with adult," says Interlandi. "I felt strongly it could have a significant mainstream impact."

Several ideas were discussed. A beer was at the top of the list, but carried with it Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms requirements with unnecessary Federal scrutiny — especially with the proximity of porn under the Bush administration's conservative Department of Justice.

Then while at a local pub, Interlandi looked around the room, noticed all the non-alcoholic chaser beverages and imagined a can of a "Deep Throat" drink between the salt and pepper shakers. "The practical side of me also realized that if the drink were non-alcoholic, we could sell it to a wider base," he says. "The booming energy beverage market seemed a natural."

It put Interlandi on quite a mission. "Just by walking at some trade shows I learned a lot and I picked up some mainstream licensees as well. A lot of this is footwork — talking to people, networking, asking what they're doing."

Into the Drink
After a year of lab testing and product research, the Deep Throat Energy Drink debuted at the Adult Expo in 2007 and officially launched it later in the year. Ever since it has broken into new energy drink marketing and sales avenues, exhibited at more than 20 tradeshows and events unexplored by other energy drink manufacturers.

The reviews are uniformly good, one describing it as having "a slightly berry taste and trending a tad sweeter than your ordinary energy drink."

Today, Arrow's marketing model stands out as a perfect example of storybook licensing done right. Its characteristic canary yellow and fiery red color scheme with the image of Linda Lovelace with arms spread wide as if to embrace thirsty consumers looking for a rush from America's first official porn queen, has made the can a collector's item.

According to Arrow and the market, the drink is here to stay. This year it was an official nominee for the XBIZ Best Marketing Campaign. Outside the adult business, the drink also was nominated for two BevNet.com awards, including Best Energy Drink and Best Overall Marketing Campaign of 2008.

Stand-Up Comics
Interlandi also pursued a comic book license, approaching nearly every large and small publisher. "Most had very stale ideas," he says. "When you go after licensees, you want to go after quality. I finally saw eye to eye with Terminal Press and I'm glad I went with them."

After three years in development, Terminal Press launched the series in January at the 2008 Adult Entertainment Expo with a post-apocalyptic adaptation of "Debbie Does Dallas" and unveiled "Deep Throat," "Candy Stripers," "Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here" four months later at Comic- Con. "The Devil in Miss Jones" book will finish the quartet as part of its 'HARD/CORE' line.

Ironically, that "hardcore" moniker is a misnomer, since the entire series actually has no hardcore images, but rather a softcore treatment for the "mature reader," placing the characters and concepts from the original films in new scenarios including thriller, horror, fairy tale and crime genres.

Poster Time
Since the new millennium, posters have had a renaissance, especially motion picture theatrical one-sheets. Although no adult motion picture has been in theatrical release since the mid-1980s, many of the vintage titles in release by Arrow were once in movie houses during porn's so-called "Golden Age" of the '70s and '80s.

Arrow Productions' library includes many classics now available online as newly-minted posters, including Gerard Damiano's original "Deep Throat," "Debbie Does Dallas," "Candy Stripers" and "The Goddaughter."

Arrow has a licensing deal with Vegas-based Acument Entertainment not only to create onesheets, but canvas poster art, 3-D posters and filmcell wall art.

Arrow's movie posters are available online at MovieGoods.com.

It's All About Respect
The road to merchandising heaven was not easy and the resistance Arrow experienced was even tougher than they realized. "Marketing and licensing X is very difficult and took a long time to be taken seriously," says Interlandi. "But I think now that after all my struggles people are finally giving us respect."

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