Pornhub videos to feature more clothing -- in the ads

Italian clothing retailer Diesel to begin advertising on the adult site

Last month, adult video site Pornhub went mainstream with a totally safe-for-work holiday ad. Now Diesel is switching sides, too. In February, the fashion brand will become the first to advertise on Pornhub, in a move that could open up an entirely new industry to traditional advertisers and the agencies that place those buys.

Pornhub is the 64th most popular website in the entire world, with 45 million visitors every day. Of course, ads on porn sites are nothing new — banner ads are ubiquitous, and pop-ups, pop-unders and auto-play videos are common fare. But by and large, those ads sell more porn. Fearful of potentially negative associations, mainstream brands ignore this untapped store of eager eyeballs.

"At Diesel, we want to talk about things that not everyone else is talking about — I like that we get to do that. Sexuality is still a taboo in today’s world," Diesel’s artistic director Nicola Formichetti told Dazed and Confused Magazine. "We all go on websites like Pornhub, you know? So before you start jerking off maybe you can stop and look at our new pants and shoes and, just laugh! It’s funny."

An edgy clothing brand like Diesel might not get any pushback from its audience (it might even garner some accolades for being sex-positive), though former hipster heartthrob American Apparel eventually had to abandon its provocative branding and ad imagery, in part due to negative feedback from its clientele.

But customers of most brands still have deeply negative views of pornography and anyone associated with it. People are notorious for underreporting their consumption, so it’s hard to find reliable data on the penetration of pornography in US households. But a 2014 study found that 65% of Americans think it’s morally wrong to watch porn — and, ostensibly, to advertise on a site that distributes it.

Not everyone agrees with that sentiment. "I think it’s an absolutely wonderful thing," said Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld and founder of MakeLoveNotPorn.

"Diesel is acknowledging that their consumers have sex and watch porn," she said, adding, "brands who want to reach women should absolutely also be considering porn."

"I find it very ironic that one of the clichés uttered about our industry is the hoary old phrase ‘sex sells,’" she said, "when actually sex is the one area of universal human experience that our industry goes massively out of its way to avoid doing anything with or anything about whatsoever."

In 2013, the food delivery service Eat24 began advertising on Pornhub and its affiliated site YouPorn, an effort that by all accounts was a great value for the brand.

"I think any brand that moves first here is certainly going to get a press benefit, and the ad will be noticed, which may not be good, because the web porn user probably really, really doesn't want to be interrupted," said Greg March, CEO of creative media agency Noble People.

"On a case-by-case basis, empowered, daring CMOs can throw down on it if they run the kind of brand that belongs next to web porn," he said. "I just don't think there are a ton of these scenarios in the market."

So far, he’s right. Besides Diesel and Eat24, only underwear brand MeUndies has attempted the crossover to ads on porn sites, though the brand also went one step further and actually made a porn ad.

Neither Diesel nor Pornhub have yet responded to requests for comment, so there are still plenty of unanswered but intriguing questions about the agreement. Who approached whom and what did negotiations look like? What form will the ads take? How big is the buy and how long can it last? And perhaps more important and potentially hazardous, are there any categories of videos that Diesel ads won’t run beside?

"Porn" is a multifaceted, extraordinarily inclusive genre — it pitches a big tent. Whether Diesel will be happy with its new bedfellows remains to be seen.

Follow I-Hsien on twitter @ihsiensherwood.

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