trends

Drawing Mainstream Attention to Adult Products

Q. Boyer
Picture yourself as a consumer, wandering around inside a sparsely populated shopping mall. You spot a sign on a closed door that reads, "Want porn? Come on in." From within the room, you can hear the hustle and bustle of all sorts of activity. Your curiosity piqued, you swing the door open — only to find a room as packed with people as is physically possible, each simultaneously screaming similar, yet subtly different messages at you.

"Absolutely free!" you hear yelled from a wide variety of directions. "Exclusive!" shrieks another voice. "The hottest girls alive!" shouts a third.

You soon find yourself overwhelmed with options, and more than a little disturbed by some of the things you hear and see in the crowded room — so you grab a couple of products from one of the tables nearest the door and beat a hasty retreat from whence you came.

Granted, it's a clumsy analogy, but this scenario is not unlike the existence of the online porn surfer. The surfers make their way around the web, some more focused than others, trying to sort through the myriad of pornographic options until they find the items that most tickle their fancy.

With competition for the attention (and business) of porn consumers more intense than ever before, a key question facing adult businesses is, "How do I get outside of that crowded room?"

One answer is to draw publicity from mainstream media sources, with possibilities ranging from pop culture outlets like TMZ.com to "hard news" organizations along the lines of CNN.

In order to get mainstream attention, adult businesses have to be mindful of what mainstream outlets are interested in — which isn't often anything related to the porn, itself. An interesting ‘tech' angle, or a news item that resonates with a story that is already dominating the mainstream can often make the difference between getting ink from mainstream media sources and being just another discarded press release in their trash bin.

This isn't to say that mainstream sources don't like to cover porn; many like to, but they need an "excuse," for lack of a better term – something they can latch on to and use to justify giving coverage to a porn company.

Brian Gross, president of BSG Public Relations, serves as publicist for Sasha Grey and Joanna Angel, among others, and has extensive experience drawing mainstream attention to his adult clients. Gross told XBIZ that when it comes to drumming up an angle on a porn-related topic that will prove compelling to mainstream outlets, he shoots for a "tie-in" to topics that are already being covered by the mainstream press.

"Hot topics are essential to getting companies into the mainstream news," Gross said. "It not only helps, it's incredibly important to have a tie-in that is current and developing in the mainstream."

An example of this from recent months was the furor of attention surrounding "Octomom," AKA Nadya Suleman. Not only did Vivid Entertainment receive coverage for its offer of $1 million to Suleman to perform in a Vivid release, Pink Visual got in on the fun by making a counteroffer: the studio offered to pay for a full year's worth of diapers if Suleman would decline Vivid's offer.

Both offers generated heaps of mainstream exposure, which in turn generated links back to Vivid and Pink Visual websites, providing not only the short-term benefit of attention on sites like TMZ.com, but a longer-term benefit of increasing link popularity for each company's websites – something that can go a long way towards improving your company's visibility on Google, Yahoo and other search engines.

Gross said that it is exactly this sort of built-in appeal that he looks for in a story he pushes out to the mainstream on behalf of his adult clients.

"I look for opportunities that I know exist or have the interest of the media," Gross said. "There are discussions and requests that I look to fulfill, as well as my normal pitches out to media. Media acceptance and interest are vital."

Since there's little likelihood that, say, TMZ.com will be interested in the number of new hosted galleries your affiliate program released in its latest update, Gross said it is crucial to understand that while sex "sells," sometimes the packaging needs to be a little less overtly graphic in order for the mainstream to "buy," so to speak.

In other words, when it comes to describing the porn itself beyond generalities, more detail is not necessarily a good thing.

"Mainstream-friendly includes sexuality that can be discussed, opportunities that involve mainstream, film, music and television, plus pop-culture and news items," Gross said.

A lot has been said about adult's role in driving the development of entertainment technology over the years, from the much-discussed impact on the competing betamax and VHS formats, to the recent ‘next-gen war' between HD-DVD and Blu-ray. What some enterprising companies have found in recent years, particularly in the mobile entertainment arena, is that technology can be used to drive eyeballs to porn every bit as much as the reverse.

In July, Pink Visual released an episode of its popular MILFSeeker line that was shot on iPhone 3GS. Rather than simply post the video for the amusement of our members, we decided to make a marketing push behind the story, and issued press releases to both adult and mainstream media outlets. The result was a rush of attention from sites that ran the gamut from Apple-focused tech blogs to XBIZ and all points in between. While the short-term traffic spike was significant, more important to us was the opportunity to put ourselves on the radar of thousands of consumers who might not have heard of Pink Visual previously, or whose familiarity with our brand was in need of a boost.

We had a sense that the story would take off, given how much discussion there had been surrounding the 3GS camera, and the pros and cons of its use and technical specs. With the market primed for news about the iPhone, Pink Visual sought out a means of providing a compelling reason to discuss it in a porn context, and a winning idea was born.

This is not to say that you can expect your revenue to shoot through the roof just because your company's name passes through Wolf Blitzer's lips one day, but over the long haul such brand exposure has a reinforcing effect and builds mindshare with consumers that can be very difficult to establish through other means.

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