Most people assume that pornography websites and the pornography industry at large became prolific simply because of its subject matter. While there is truth to that, what most people don’t know is just how much time, money, and effort the porn industry has thrown into marketing tactics, data, and strategy.
This significant investment has worked well to help the industry create a larger audience of porn consumers. However, the more subtle goal that the industry uses these tactics to accomplish is the normalization of pornography as a regular and acceptable part of modern society. Herein, we are taking a look at how these tactics have played out and why their work of normalization is so harmful.
Understanding the Pornography Industry’s Creative Marketing Tactics
Pornography companies utilize the windfall from their widely-trafficked material to test creative and bleeding-edge marketing tactics that push their material to the forefront of the social consciousness by attracting mainstream media coverage. Most people aren’t familiar with just how savvy the most popular pornography companies are when it comes to drawing in new users and keeping consumers addicted. An old adage from Sun Tzu reminds us that ignorance of an opponent’s aptitude will lead to a defeat after every victory. In that spirit, advocates in the movement to end sexual exploitation need to understand how the pornography industry’s marketing strategy works so that we can better counter and outmaneuver it.
What are some of the ways that the pornography industry is utilizing inventive marketing tactics? Here are just a few examples:
- In 2014, Pornhub generated controversy by placing a “G-rated” ad in Times Square
- The webcamming company CamSoda offered free cameras to players from the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers in the lead up to Super Bowl LIV under the pretense that players could use the cameras to monitor their houses and prevent break-ins
- In 2017, Pornhub deployed a fleet of snowplows, complete with Pornhub logos, to areas of the snowed-in northeastern cities during Winter Storm Stella
- CamSoda also took advantage of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak by offering free porn to passengers who were quarantined on a Carnival cruise ship
- Not to be outdone, Pornhub offered its Pornhub Premium content to the entire country of Italy after its government instituted a lockdown due to COVID-19
- After a teen tweeted about how he smashed his computer screen when he was watching porn and it froze as his mom was walking towards his room, Pornhub tweeted back at him and sent him a brand new PC
- CamSoda has targeted military members with offers of personalized cam-girl greetings for deployed troops.
Pornhub has even sought to normalize itself through the unique “philanthropic” work of (allegedly) cleaning up beaches, saving honeybees, planting trees, and making porn more accessible to the blind community. These tactics are designed to give pornography companies more cultural credibility in simple ways while distracting from the boundless abuse and proliferation of rape culture from which they profit.
Again, the whole point of these marketing tactics is normalization. Just ask Pornhub vice president, Corey Price: “For us, it’s really just about making ourselves visible in unexpected places. The goal with a lot of what we do is to make [the adult industry] a part of conversations that it typically hasn’t been, like we’ve done with music, fashion and philanthropy, for instance.”
Business Insider has done a comprehensive breakdown of everything modern marketing professionals can learn from Pornhub’s tactics and success. Whether it’s hiding behind the guise of being a legitimate business, or seeking to normalize its content, it is clear that the money spent on eccentric marketing efforts has been working out in favor of the pornography industry. Year after year, Pornhub remains near the top of the list of the top 50 most-visited sites worldwide due to its cutthroat ability to throw large amounts of money into marketing and advertising.
To maintain their market share and fuel their marketing efforts, Pornhub and other companies in the pornography industry keep meticulous accounts of their user data including, but not limited to: audience demographics, geography, viewing preferences, and more. They farm whatever data they can in order to supercharge a culture of marketing that leaves no stone unturned in its search for new tactics to get attention, normalize its product, and grow a profitable user base. As Pornhub VP Corey Price said in a separate interview, “We utilize our data and trends to make interesting SFW (safe for work) content that people love to read about and share. The media, and in turn our readers, have really responded well to it over the years, and it has been a great way for us to create conversations about our brand in a SFW and shareable way.”
Countering the Normalization of the Pornography Industry
It is clear that the pornography industry has been working hard to normalize its content and that its PR offensive has largely worked. This normalization has allowed them to downplay any potential harm pornography is having on those in front of the camera, those consuming the content, and society at large. The troubling links between pornography and sexual abuse, exploitation, trafficking, rape, and child sexual abuse have a difficult time gaining traction in the public imagination because pornography has been deemed “fine” or “acceptable” or “a personal choice.” The normalization of pornography has helped suppress the truth about its widespread harms using blatant lies about freedom of speech and body positivity.
The movement to end sexual exploitation needs to be educated and cognizant of the tactics pornographers use. Failure to do so means risking progress of the movement as a whole.
That being said, knowledge of the industry’s strategy is not all-sufficient for combating its influence in culture.
It is important that the movement to end sexual exploitation exposes and subverts the pornography industry’s attempts at normalization. However, it is also crucial that we develop and implement more creative, forward-thinking marketing and storytelling ourselves. This is a call-to-action to us and to our fellow advocates who are committed to the fight against sexual exploitation.