BURBANK, Calif. — The highly-anticipated summer edition of the renowned ANME Founders Show kicked off Sunday morning with bright blue skies and a scorching sun shining overhead.
But before attendees got down to business, Shots Media welcomed industry colleagues at its Hollywood Hills mansion party the day before. Upon entering the manor, guests were welcomed with bubbly champagne and then ushered to the backyard patio which overlooked all of Los Angeles, offering a breathtaking view.
A DJ mixed tracks in the corner on top of a makeshift stage while partygoers mingled with one another, glasses filled to the brim with their choice of alcohol. Decadent chocolates and a myriad of delicious cheeses were layered on silver platters, surrounded by fresh fruit, select cuts of ham and various types of bread. Waiters dressed in matching black bottoms and white shirts whizzed between the outside terrace and pool-side area, offering refreshments and bright smiles to everyone. Those who arrived early were lucky enough to sit down with an artist, who then painted caricatures of them.
As the sun set and the temperature cooled, Shots America CEO Ruben Deitz took to the stage and called everyone to attention. Standing next to the DJ, Deitz thanked the crowd for making the drive, or at least, catching an Uber to the designated location. Dressed casually, he gave a brief rundown on the history of Shots before stating that owner and founder Oscar Heijnen had a recent birthday.
“Really, he’s my best friend and my partner,” Deitz enthused, clapping his hands together. “He’s been a huge support for us. I love him like a brother, and I want to give him a very special gift.”
Deitz then asked Heijnen to join him upfront, a Cheshire grin gracing his features, but Heijnen declined and stayed seated.
“He knows it’s coming!” Deitz teased. The look on Heijnen’s face, slightly bewildered and amused, seemed to give the idea that he did, in fact, know what was coming!
After thanking sales executive Jason Miller for organizing the event, as well as giving thanks to his wife, Deitz revealed with the gift: a “Despicable Me” Gru mask and a living, breathing yellow Minion, overalls and all. Okay, it was a guy in a Minion suit, but awesome nevertheless.
Despite the party coming to an end, the night’s festivities weren’t over just yet. The XBIZ White Party was up next!
Back at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel, hundreds of people dressed in white ensembles basked in each other’s presence. It was there that industry elites socialized and feasted on upscale offerings such as sashimi and pig roast.
As the DJ pumped up the music, playing hit after hit, the crowd migrated to the dance floor. Everyone sang along to classic jams like TLC’s “No Scrubs” and Corey Hart's “Sunglasses at Night."
With the California heat finally dying down and the music slowly fading out, the crowd retreated back to their hotel rooms and homes, eagerly anticipating the next day’s show.
And so it began!
Bright and early, exhibitors prepared their various displays, chatting with one another on the display floor. After a hearty breakfast of fresh fruit, coffee and various pastries, booths were officially set up and ready for visitors.
Inside the Exhibitor’s Tent, Lovehoney showcased its new “Broad City” line, consisting of colorful products modeled after sex jokes featured on the show.
“So, we’re launching this in accordance with the premiere of season 4,” Lovehoney’s international sales manager Kate Hodgson-Egan said.
She, then, explained the final “Fifty Shades” collection, Fifty Shades Freed and the limited edition Fifty Shades Freed leather collection.
“What we tried to do with Freed,” Hodgson-Egan enthused while pointing to the rows of toys lined in front of her. “It’s the third movie, so it’s all about the honeymoon. More couples-y, you know? We tried to be very couple-y in terms of product design and also the color. We tried to be a bit softer.”
Moving down the booth, Hodgson-Egan unveiled the BlowYo, a discreet male masturbatory aid that could also be used during blowjobs. It looked very similar to a container of hair gel; discreet indeed!
“Every year we do a designer sex toy,” Hodgson-Egan continued. “This has been, like, two years in the making. It stretches out, has two rings inside, so it’s easy grip and stretchy. When we sent it out for review, all the guys came back and said, ‘It’s the best thing for enhancing a blowjob!’ So, we just incorporated that aspect to the toy’s packaging.”
Down the row, first-timer Anne Moyer showcased her upcoming line of erotic care packages for her company, Novel Erotics.
“Basically we have a library of books with little erotic stories on the inside cover, and then all the toys to accompany the fantasy,” Moyer gleefully explained. Her jolly demeanor really sold the idea. “We’ve had to do a little trial and error! We have the bondage theme, we’ve got kind of a sexy ‘anything goes’ hotel affair novel. One of our newest books is ‘Arabian Nights.’ There’s no sex toys in here yet, because we’re mocking it up. But it’s going to have Kama Sutra positions on the inside cover!”
Stationed right across from Novel Erotics, Womanizer’s simple booth elegantly exhibited the new Womanizer 2GO, as well as the Womanizer Plus.
“The Womanizer Plus was just featured on Conan O’Brien!” said Morgan Rossi, spokesperson for Womanizer. “As our products kind of grow to one real line, they start to mimic each other. They start to have a little more of a cohesive feel. I think Pleasure Air has kind of created this whole new category for toys. It’s really awesome to be a part of that technology!”
Located near the entrance, Adventure Industries really went for shock factor. The outrageously awesome Drilldo was a focal point of the display. It was equipped with an oversized dildo. Additionally, The Rabbit Company showed off a hologram prototype that seemed plucked directly out of a Sci-Fi film.
“This is our hologram display,” Chaney Cox, The Rabbit Company’s brand manager, explained. “What we’re looking to do is make an impression in stores. When a customer comes in, the hologram will be one of the first things they see. It’s going to be informative in terms of how to use the toy. So, yes people will get information, but it’s really all about grabbing that attention. It’s about that first impression from the consumers.”
As for toys, The Rabbit Company promoted three new rabbits: the Beaded D.P. Rabbit, Kissing Rabbit and Thrusting Rabbit.
Right in the middle of the Exhibitor Tent, Aneros gave a sneak peek of its upcoming Trident series, which is set to debut at Sex Expo New York. Aneros’ display included walnuts scattered across a table. When asked for the significance, the three ambassadors chimed in unison, “It’s the size of your prostate!”
Then, product and business development manager Forrest Andrews explained the idea behind Trident.
“I’ll tell you what we did here with this product,” he spoke softly, but clearly. “We kind of looked at the product from the ground up. Our previous products moved in one plane, which was really up and down. On the x-axis, you know? What we did was ... we found a way to tune these products so they moved on the y-axis as well.
“What that means in point to point is that they normally just kind of tap at the prostate,” Andrews continued. “So, what this translates into is more agility, a more range of motion and more sensation externally and internally. It’s a much more powerful product.”
He now held the toy in his hand, allowing it to teeter in the air, showing how the movement now varied to a more circular motion than just up and down.
Nearing the exit, Shots Media displayed its vast collection of products.
“We have about 500 new SKUs,” Joey Teodoro, director of operations and sales for Shots Canada explained. “But one of our newest lines is Chrystalino, which is made of handblown glass and is shatterproof. Beautiful, beautiful line.”
The bright blue fixtures were a standout amongst attendees.
Moving along, XR Brands turned heads with its sleek, black display. Operations manager, Gerardo Ramos, explained the newest addition to its line of products.
“One of the new products we have is this prostate stimulator, which has rotating beads at the base,” he held the product in his hands, showing off its strong vibrations. “We also have a new VR stroker and headset that fits a bigger cellphone. Before, we only provided anime videos, but now we’re working with new videos.”
Leading the way to the opposite end of the booth, Ramos showcased XR Brand’s extreme line, Master Series, which included sounding tools shaped like a penis.
“You’re putting a penis in your penis,” he joked.
Other companies located in the Exhibitor Tent were LELO, Hot Octopuss and Creative Conceptions.
LELO displayed its new, larger line of LELO HEX condoms.
“This is the bigger version,” CMO Steve Thomson clarified. “It’s the same technology. We mapped 350 hexagons inside the condom, we reengineered it. The last the time condom was innovated was 70 years ago. So it’s had a really great market acceptance. I think from a business point, when you have the big guys like Trojan and Durex really cornering the market, you don’t really see a lot of brands making their way in. So, that’s exciting for us.
“We chose the name Respect for this condom, to represent respect in a relationship,” Thomson continued. “And, again, the condom is all about addressing the points of breakage and slippage without compromising pleasure, really. So that’s the cool part about it.”
Hot Octopuss debuted its first foray into women’s products, which works on the company’s pulse technology and is shaped like a body wand. Additionally, the brand unveiled the Pocket Pulse, which is a cheaper, entry-level toy.
“Unlike Pulse, which works on isolated technology, we’ve kind of been able to replicate the technology using two large motors,” Adam Lewis from Hot Octopuss detailed. “It’s still effective, and it’s cute, and it’s going to be a lot cheaper.”
The Creative Conceptions booth was long in length, and packed to the brim with wellness products and sexy couple's games. Their newest board game, Sex Marks the Spot, was the focal point of the exhibition.
“The game itself is really, really easy,” said a Creative Conceptions spokesperson. “You roll the dice and follow the coordinates. When you land on X, you can mark it off on your note card. When you get to the three Xs, your partner must do whatever you want them to do!”
Sex Marks the Spot, the spokesperson added, is set to be a hit with consumers.
Now exiting the Exhibitor Tent and heading to the City Ballroom, brands such as Baci Lingerie, NS Novelties and Hott Products showed-off their latest pleasure projects.
Baci Lingerie introduced 25 new styles to its White Label Collection, which was inspired by the soft bondage and strappy, caged looks. Of the new styles, nine are available in queen size, continuing Baci’s vision of embracing women of all sizes worldwide with a sexy confidence. Additionally, Envy Menswear’s new 12-piece collection was presented at the show.
NS Novelties drew crowds to its display, which featured a new collection of glow-in-the-dark sex toys. An usher notified people of “the NS Novelties peep show,” and walked them into the darkened room.
“We’ve had really great success with out glow-in-the-dark Firefly collection,” Scott Taylor from NS Novelties explained. “The most recent addition to the line is our glass collection. You can see how vibrant they are.
"There has really been a continuous support for these kind of toys,” he continued. “When you get something this hot, you just see where else you can take it! And glow-in-the-dark glass is, I think, the next cool thing we’re doing.”
Hott Products also drew crowds with its display of bachelorette items and novelty products. A notable item on display was a handheld fan that illuminated the words “Blow Me” when turned on.
As the clock’s hands landed on 6 p.m., the commotion began to dwindle. Slowly, people began to head back to their hotel rooms, chattering about a successful first day.
ANME continues this evening. Tune in tomorrow for more coverage. For more information and a full list of exhibitors, visit ANMEFounders.com.