A Trip to the Mall

Joe Zigfeld
As competition for affiliate loyalty and consumer dollars intensifies among online adult retailers, one company has made something of an art form out of harnessing Porn Valley's star power. MALLcom was a fixture in the news throughout the year with a slew of contests and parties featuring adult entertainment's A List. MALLcom's public relations success has lessons for adult sites across the board, from established players to novice webmasters.

The New York-based e-tailer hosted high-profile events, including a New Year's Eve bash with Jenna Jameson, and "Party Like a Pornstar" with Tera Patrick and Sunny Leone at Florida Internext. Another PR coup was the "Win a Date with Taylor Rain" contest, in which MALLcom joined with Defiance Films to provide trips to Los Angeles for two fans to visit the set of a movie directed by the young starlet. In addition to being entered into a drawing by buying merchandise at a MALLcom site, fans were able to bid on the prize at eBay. The winning bid was $3,900. MALLcom made sure to involve its affiliates, pumping them up by offering them a chance to win an Xbox 360 for promoting the contest. Another contest, with Shane's World, boosted the latter's "Nerdz" release. The winner received a "Shane's World Porno Party" at their house.

Promotions like these score on two counts: They generate publicity for the stars and films involved, and they build a reputation for MALLcom among existing and potential affiliates as an exciting mover-and-shaker within the adult industry. For an East Coast company far removed from the industry's California nerve center, such moves are all the more impressive.

Not that MALLcom's competitors are slouches when it comes to stepping into adult's limelight. Adult DVD Empire recently struck a deal with Elegant Angel to produce a line of compilation DVDs sold exclusively on The four-hour DVDs recycle Elegant Angel footage in the anal, busty and teen genres, and are appropriately titled "Anal Stars," "Busty Stars" and "First Time Stars."

WantedList, the dominant online adult rental site, is also noteworthy for capitalizing on its ties to Porn Valley. Among its promotions was a recent contest offering customers a chance to direct a video for Madness Pictures.

Free Hosted Galleries
Another way that MALLcom is using its clout with adult filmmakers to stand out from the competition is by offering free hosted video galleries to its affiliates from studio partners like Red Light District, Defiance Films, 3rd Degree and Acid Rain. Where most retail sites only show front and back box covers, the video galleries allow prospective customers to watch 640x480 clips that automatically upload to Windows Media Player. Viewers can click through to buy the DVD. Some of the porn stars in the galleries include Brittney Skye, Lanny Barby, Monica Sweetheart and Rita Faltoyano.

"The galleries provide an interactive experience for the viewers that draw them in just enough so they feel compelled to buy the DVD," MALLcom's Managing Director Ric Garcia said.

Unlike MALLcom's main competitors Game Link, Adam & Eve and Adult DVD Empire (all four were nominees for best retail site at the latest XBiz Awards, along with Effex Media, Good Vibrations, WantedList and ultimate winner, the firm sells exclusively through sites customized with the brands of its more than 10,000 affiliates. Effex Media also uses this co-branding approach.

Some of MALLcom's more prominent affiliates include Tera Patrick's, Seymore Butts' and Webmasters can choose from more than 500 storefronts for the MALLcom site.

"All our [online stores] combined do very close to 11 million total hits a day," Javors said. Currently, affiliates have to put a counter on their title page to track hits. But MALLcom's about to launch a comprehensive new system that, among other things, will allow webmasters to easily track how many unique hits their stores get."

MALLcom 2.0 also will include personalized customer accounts similar to Amazon and other mainstream e-tailers, where consumers can store their shopping cart data for future visits and access their accounts through any computer.

According to Javors, MALLcom will be the only adult marketer offering this feature to its universe of affiliates. MALLcom-owned Adult will beta-test the new system.

"Each customer, no matter which one of our affiliates' sites they shop on, can create an account with all their info stored and access that on any computer when they sign in," Garcia said. "It's like creating your own virtual shopping store."

The company has its roots in a video store in Queens that was owned by MALLcom CEO Jerry Aharony's father in the early 1990s. The younger Aharony had noticed that the store's adult section was the most popular. With the Internet emerging as a mass-marketing phenomenon, he quit law school to set up shop in his basement and sell adult videos online. At one point, Aharony was Vivid Video's top Internet distributor. As MALLcom's affiliate program took off, the company outgrew its small subterranean headquarters. First it moved to a warehouse in Queens, then to its current 30,000-square-foot complex in Glen Cove, an affluent suburb east of New York City on Long Island. MALLcom now stocks more than 100,000 items — everything from adult videos and novelties to lingerie and herbal enhancements.

MALLcom seems to understand that a first-rate PR machine means nothing if the company doesn't stay ahead of the technological curve. MALLcom tested a video-on-demand program in late 2004.

"It was very successful, but we had a few technical glitches and with the impending 2257 regulations, we took it down," Javors said. "It's currently being tinkered with and will re launch with our new cart."

Javors added that the company also is looking into the online rental market. Expansion into rentals, of course, would pit MALLcom head-to-head against WantedList.

Now that would be a Battle-of-the-PR-Giants that Vince McMahon could sell tickets to.