Eularie Saldanha
Feb 10, 2022

Will brands come onboard platforms dedicated to porn?

Professionals talk about advertising on pornographic platforms, its impact on brands, its challenges, and the future scope for it

Will brands come onboard platforms dedicated to porn?
At a time where Indian marketers speak fervently about targeted marketing, reaching larger audiences, breaking taboos and being woke overall, how ironic is it for mediums with such potential to be inevitably avoided with regard to advertising on them?
 
We’re talking about one such area which for many reasons and to most marketers, remains grey - pornographic platforms.
 
In 2018, India was the third-largest visitor of PornHub - an adult website.
 
 
With the masses' addiction to pornography, and the massive traffic that can be reached, what’s stopping brands, including relevant ones, from exploring their erogenous zones? 
 
Why are marketers sceptical?
 
Although the Information Technology Act of 2000 does not prohibit the viewing and downloading of pornographic content (unless it’s child pornography), in the privacy of one’s home, the biggest reason preventing experts from using pornographic mediums is the belief that it would contravene the law. 
 
However, if you can’t fathom why any known brand would ever advertise on the internet's bawdiest pages, let us take you through a nostalgic ride. Back in 2015, Zomato did a banging campaign, which got 10-20 times the returns of traditional advertising.
 
 
However, the brand had to take this down after a public outcry.
 
IMBesharam, an online brand that sells sex toys and adult products, activated its campaign on several porn sites around the same time, only to have Google and Facebook deactivate its ad accounts.
 
The company’s co-founder and COO, Raj Armani, stated that it saw a traffic spike of 300%, but no major conversions, after it placed its ads on XVideos and its suite of sites. This nudged the brand to switch its focus on media and PR instead. 
 
“We turned to SEO, which would lead to permanent karma being created on the internet, even much after the campaigns have ended,” he said.
 
Skore Condoms’ Arjun Siva, head of digital marketing and eCommerce, TTK Healthcare, consumer products division, believed that using porn sites would add an extra layer of taboo to the brand’s category. “Our effort towards normalising conversations around sex, pleasure and protection, would be met with more vetoes," he explained. 
 
Vikas Bagaria, the founder of Pee Safe - a women’s sexual health and wellness brand, stated that the brand doesn't need to resort to this medium, because of the growing number of advertising platforms focusing on the type of audience he wishes to reach.  
 
Weighing both situations, Rajesh Srinivasan, marketing strategy consultant and founder, Mindful Marketing, ruled that relevance matters more than brand awareness. “A sensible marketer may even fret about the rub-off that the platform will have on its brand equity. It is about being strategic rather than opportunistic,” he added.  
 
Challenge for brands
 
On 27 October 2018, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) instructed Indian internet service providers to ban 827 pornographic websites from their network. 
 
As pointed out by Siva, this is why some people use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to consume such content. “Such networks mask all kinds of data. So any information about the user base, age groups, genders etc. is to be taken with a pinch of salt. With no targeting ability and suspect post-evaluation, it will be tough for any brand to put advertising monies on porn sites,” he explained.
 
Experts opined that high traffic on porno platforms is a two-edged sword that doesn’t necessarily spell relevance for brands in terms of sales conversions.
 
Explaining this, Armani revealed how the traffic he received on porn sites weren’t looking to make a purchase, but hoping for an alternate form of visual entertainment, which the brand didn’t offer. He added, “It might also lead to the brand being perceived as less premium or less upscale since it would be placed between ads and content in that territory.”
 
From an ethical standpoint, since such content has been plagued with accusations of exploitation of performers, including content that may have been created or posted without the performers’ consent, marketers believe that working in this sphere would imply that the brand too, promotes the website’s overall content. 
 
Future of advertising on porn websites
 
Acknowledging that it had been almost seven years since the time IMBesharam advertised on the likes of XVideos, Armani stated that he has been witnessing better quality porn, which could help him discover audiences that are open to newer avenues of attaining pleasure. “With this assessment, the risks are justified by the rewards. We will consider coming up with three campaigns for the next three quarters, to go back up on these sites.”
 
Siva too would be open to exploring such websites in situations where concerns like legality, ethical procurement of content, accurate data, and good ROI potentials are allayed.
 
However, one must keep in mind that the level of intensity of the audiences while consuming pornographic content would be significantly higher as compared to any other media consumption. 
 
Srinivasan explained that though porn channels have heavy traffic, the audiences might not be keen on viewing ads at that point. “With digital media enabling people to skip ads and change their media preferences, will they really pay attention to interruptive advertising while watching porn?” he asked.
 
When all’s said and done, executing such communication is not every brand's cup of tea. 
 
Speaking of this, Ashish Khazanchi, managing partner, Enormous Brands, stated, “One would have to do it in a manner that is really clever and makes the audiences like the brand for its smartness. The potential for cringe remains huge, so the communication better be genuinely witty.” 
 
Source:
Campaign India