The Racial Market

Gila Morgan
Somebody get the Magic 8 Ball, the producers are again trying to figure out what people in the "ethnic markets" are looking for in adult entertainment.

Asking what people of color want in their adult videos is like asking what they want in their footwear: One guy wants work boots, another wing-tips, and a third is cool with sneakers. The quality, for each, depends on what they can afford or make priority spending.

Retailers, of course, can spot trends in their stores and chains, but on the one hand, those trends can be specific to cities or regions, and on the other, they may not coincide with what fascinates producers of adult content. For example, the notion that Asian girls are every man's fantasy may be a lot more true for white guys than men of color.

Greg, the adult buyer for the Video USA chain, which has stores in several Southern states with large black populations, said Asian content isn't a big mover, and Daryl Jenkins, owner of A View to Video in Oxnard, Calif., said that among his ethnic customers, "even the Asians don't watch the Asian girls."

Although there's a perception that many black men are more interested in interracial content than black-on-black action, several industry professionals chalk that up to a relative scarcity of quality black-on-black product, with the emphasis on quality.

"We need more black product out there," Greg said. While interracial does well for his stores, "we always have a demand for black product,"he said,

"The problem with a lot of black product is that people weren't putting in a lot of effort," said Tony Santoro, who runs production company Black Ice. "The technical quality was piss-poor, and the action was lazy. Real porn lovers are not going to be satisfied with cheap shit."

Santoro, whose company is a spin-off from Greg Alves' Zero Tolerance, said his titles are helped by the parent company's reputation for quality. Black Ice currently generates a new title every week; about three in four feature black-on-black action, and the others are interracial, often shot in Brazil using Brazilian women. "Every customer, every distributor, every retailer said, 'Hey, there's just not enough quality black product,'" Santoro told XBIZ.

Chris Norman, vice president of Evil Angel, said that his company hires directors like Justin Slayer and Johnny Darko who "understand the passions of the ethnic market" and deliver what turns them on. "It's really on the shoulders of our directors to carry the product to the ethnic market," he said.

Music also is important to black consumers, and more producers are using hip-hop as a draw. "We don't just put black people in a movie and call it hip-hop," Jon Blatt, president of domestic distribution for Antigua Pictures, told XBIZ. "We put actual hip-hop personalities in our soundtracks."

Mr. Marcus, owner of production company MSEX Inc., also cites hiphop as a good marketing element, saying the sound and the urban sensibility resonate with white and Latino buyers as well. "Make it ethnic, make it hip-hop, make it sexual" is the motto at MSEX, Marcus said.

To Marcus, hip-hop is just one component of a product that not only appeals to black consumers on the sensual level but also communicates a sense of ethnic pride. "We're starting to achieve ownership of our own product," Marcus told XBIZ, noting that black-oriented adult videos weren't always produced by black entrepreneurs. To Marcus, it's important that "we don't lose sight of our heritage, even in a sexual way."

To that end, Marcus wants his movies to have a strong sense of style, because, he said, "black people in general have style" and are seen as trend-setters for the general culture. And the attitude of pride, he indicated, needs to extend to the women in his films. "We shoot these girls in a complimentary way," he said.

Like other industry professionals, Marcus acknowledged a need for new black talent. At MSEX, he said, "we're looking for the most authentic girls; we're looking for a girl from the hood." He thinks women who can attract ethnic buyers of many different tastes are out there. "Look at someone like [pop star] Beyoncé," Marcus said. "There are all shapes and sizes of Beyoncés in the world who have yet to be recognized. I think you'll start seeing more of them soon."

Customers' socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of education seem to have as much to do with what sells as ethnic affiliations. According to Jenkins, less-affluent customers with limited education and often, in his part of the world, limited English skills are content with inexpensive compilation videos that go from one slam-bam scene to another and are not concerned with production values. "The less-educated guys don't want story, they just want action," he said.

Baron, whose UrgeXotica brand sells throughout Latin America, said you have to take pricing into consideration when marketing to people in countries where people don't have much discretionary income. "We make sure we develop a product [for them] without all the bells and whistles that we can sell for 20-25 percent less than in the States," he said.

However, a taste for quality product cuts across all ethnic lines, with consumers of all racial groups willing to pay for what they want, especially if it utilizes the latest technologies, such as hi-definition and high production values. "If they've got the content in there, [buyers] don't care about the price," Jenkins said.

UrgeXotica has reached out to Latin American consumers with Spanish-language soundtracks and translation of the HTML text on their web venture, Urge Alliance, into Spanish. "They want to understand what they're listening to," Rick Cuban, co-owner of UrgeXotica, said of his audience.

Many Latinos, like many black men, stick with the home team for their fantasy objects. Jenkins noted that the Latino base in one of his stores has a preference for Latin girls, and Greg of Video USA, many of whose stores are in areas with growing Spanish-speaking populations, has noticed an up tick in sales for both straight and gay Latino videos.

Another cross-cultural marketing concern is attractive and truthful packaging. "Packaging is the key," Jenkins said, noting that consumers are put off by a video that doesn't deliver what the box promises and will not be repeat buyers of a brand that pulls a bait-and-switch.

"Sometimes the girls on the package aren't even in the movie," Jenkins said. "If you're going to put it on the box, it's got to be in the movie."

Packaging also is paramount to Lexington Steele, legendary black adult film star and now also owner and president of Mercenary Pictures, who counsels producers to put "the most impactful" images possible on the cover.

Don't dilute the force of the image by loading the front of the box with too many girls, and "always put a girl who captures the eye" and stands out from the images on other titles as the hottest, Steele told XBIZ. "She may not be the prettiest girl, but she has the biggest butt, or she may not have the biggest butt, but she has the biggest tits."

And on the back cover, Steele said, Mercenary opens a window onto the hardcore nature of the content. "Put the shine on the front and the sizzle on the back," he said.

While wide swaths of ethnic consumers may have similar tastes, what individuals choose depends on individual taste, plus issues like price point and language. "Quality porn doesn't have any boundaries," Tony Santoro of Black Ice said.

Therefore, marketing to the ethnic buyer seems to consist of listening to what s/he wants and making him or her happy. "You have to give what the customer's looking for," Greg of Video USA said. "There's really no marketing in porn."