Porno Product Placement: WTF?!

So I was watching a porno from a majorly huge company for review the other day when I saw, for the first time in my sexy movie experience, flagrant product placement. For another movie by the same company. I was stunned. And I’m not sure why. It’s not as if I expect porn to live up to some kind of moral code that precludes advertisements or something; product placement is a good way to sell products. I get that, and it’s cool. Especially in porn, which is one of the least apologetically money-grubbing of the industries, and one which has been steadily losing revenue for years. And it’s not as if there isn’t room in porn for product placement–really, every time you see a toy in use, it’s an advertisement for the company that made that toy. But then again, you don’t usually hear the performers discussing the merits of this toy made by this company, which can be purchased at this website or anything nearly so explicit. You just see people using these toys and enjoying them, and then if you really want to try that toy you can go find it on your own. It’s not usually product placement so much as product use.

But in this movie, one of the characters was interested in trying anal sex, and her friend told her very specifically to get the DVD of jessica drake’s Wicked Guide to Anal to learn how to do it. Which is absolutely acceptable, really. It’s a good idea to get some advice on the subject of buttsex before trying it, because anal brings with it FAR more opportunities for disaster than most other sex acts. Learning about it first is excellent advice. And since Wicked made this movie, and also a movie about how to do anal, there’s absolutely no good reason not mention it. I have a personal contempt for product placement in “art,” but this movie isn’t exactly art for art’s sake, or any kind of sacrosanct advertising-free zone.

But still, it jarred me. Like, what was this, a Britney Spears video? (If her recent videos [check out the 0:40 mark] are any indication, that woman wears SO MUCH [0:40 again] of her own perfume I think I could smell her coming from miles away.) And I think that’s the thing that made me do a double-take: porn is one of the biggest industries on the planet, so why not advertise more blatantly? The thing is that, because of its sexual nature, porn gets virtually nothing done in the way of advertising. Sure there are ads for porn and sex products on porn sites, and at the beginning DVDs, and in the pages of skin magazines, but the jizz biz doesn’t really need to advertise for people to seek it out. It’s a self-contained industry in terms of its own promotion. And within actual porno movies, there’s no room for advertisements. It’s not as if your average porn viewer is going to stand for 30 second ads in between sex scenes–that’s when we’d turn to the fast-forward button or ad-free content online. Nobody wants to be bothered by encouragement to buy more porn when they’re already watching porn.

So when this “casual” mention of another movie by the same company happened, I sat in stunned silence. I think even rewound it to play it again. Did that just happen? It all seemed so commercially meta, I couldn’t figure out if it was smarter than I expected porn to be, or more self-referential, or just more boldly greedy. But the fact remained that it happened, and it worked pretty well, actually. Porn, at least from the big companies out in the Valley, is so hugely commercial now that it can do product placement. It’s so much like mainstream media that advertisements seem like the next logical step. Or so seems to go the logic of Wicked.

And after all, why not? I think this is one of those instances in which I give in to my knee-jerk reaction about something in porn, but when I reflect upon it I find that whatever my knee jerked against was something I absolutely can’t argue with. I’ve been writing for years, literally, about how porn should be treated more like other forms of entertainment: how we should talk about it more, think about it more, write about it more, and give it more respect. How porn should treat itself with a little more dignity so we can start to view it that way. And while I wouldn’t necessarily call product placement a dignified thing to do, by definition it does make whatever product is being placed and the medium on which it’s placed more of a serious deal. Product placement in porn is like that medium’s way of saying, “We have something really good going here, and in fact it’s so good that we’re going to take this opportunity to shed light on something else good that we do.” It’s placing a porno squarely in the same kind of league as any other form of entertainment that assumes its audience is large enough to be advertised to, and that they respect its message enough to be open to suggestion while watching it. So really, this is a great sign.

Right?

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