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What Should We Learn from Pornhub’s Marketing?

SOD- pornhub-insights-united-kingdom-divided-cover

Pornhub is one of the most popular search engines for the porn industry. In recent years,  Pornhub’s  marketing has allowed the brand to edge into the mainstream and include itself in above-the-line marketing while competing in the same space as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

Putting the brand’s services aside, they use a lot of smart techniques that incorporate social, content, digital PR and traditional marketing to make what they do so successful. Truth be told, every marketer should take note. Here’s why:

Subtle Brands Can Still Make a Big Noise

How does a brand that’s strictly not safe for work (NSFW) be featured in large newspaper sites, have its content shared socially and more importantly, be acceptable to view at your desk at work?

Enter Pornhub’s ad agency, Spain-based Officer & Gentleman. The two-man agency knew that to launch a successful ad for the brand, it would have to be subtle enough for mainstream sites to consider featuring it. They understood that because Facebook and Instagram are known for their strict content rules, the only way they could get around it was to completely avoid being risqué.

O&G released the brand’s holiday ad, featuring a typical family opening their Christmas presents in the living room. Everyone is enjoying their newly received gifts, until the grandson notices his elderly grandfather is still waiting for his. He then picks up a card and gives it to the old man. Face brimming with delight, grandfather embraces grandson while the audience sees a subscription to Pornhub’s Premium service in his hand. The ad ends with a caption; ‘this Christmas, give the most touching gift.’

The ad racked up 5 million views, high volume shares on social media and was featured on some of the most influential sites in the world including Telegraph, Huffington Post and Metro. It also won Gizmodo ad of the year. The agency could have gone all out with the topic and produced a non-apologetic ad, but the truth is that no one in the mainstream audience would have even seen it.

Lesson: Understand your brand and its market before you try and sell a product. Take into account rules and regulations for specific social platforms, especially when trying to produce content with the intention of making it go viral. As a branding exercise, think broad and don’t become tangled in the details, as this can hinder the effectiveness of a well thought out campaign.

People Not Interested in a Brand are Still Interested in its Data!

Their data is sexy, and not because it’s about sex. Porbhub’s  Marketing Insights department release data segmented by country, search terms, duration on the site, state and location. This isn’t just for the US market. In order for the brand to reach audiences across the world, they use data from their biggest territories to deliver content that’s more relevant in those locations.

The brand’s Insight’s page includes tables and infographics that are easily shareable and released regularly, with in-depth releases appearing in their annual review.

For the person who doesn’t know or isn’t interested in Pornhub, the data they release certainly makes for newsworthy topics. The same way that Norwegian Air releases content with topics like ‘the strangest ways people have avoided paying luggage fees’, Pornhub uses their data to generate stories that appeal to a broad group rather than simply their core audience.

Lesson: Look at the data you have access to and use it. It might be even be worth gaining insights from your sales and web team. This is the first step to a campaign, content marketing piece or press story that’s not just about the brand, but about genuinely good, interesting data to earn audience attention.


Marry Content and Digital PR Beautifully

Great content, subtle ideas and interesting data all make for a great digital PR story. Pornhub’s content strikes a careful balance and is interesting enough to suit a multitude of different sites.

Instead of focusing on explicit content or brand USPs, the strategy is to get the brand noticed by creating clever content that news sites will actually pick up. Once sold into larger news sites, content is usually syndicated to other sites, including Yahoo and MSN. The result is multiple high domain authority sites all linking back to Pornhub.

Lesson: If you have great content that’s relatable, topical or riding a current trend, then you need to create a PR plan around it. No content is great, without a great audience. Look at which audiences and sites would potentially feature your content, and start building a list from there. Make sure the content is varied so different sites have a variety of formats to work with. For example, play around with long and short infographics, imagery and iconography, as well as GIFs and video.

SOD- Daily Mail


The Pornhub brand is certainly not for everyone, but strategic marketing ensures their content goes viral to a large audience. Your brand doesn’t need to be as risqué as Pornhub, it could simply be a difficult brand that’s hard to grasp the attention of the general public.

What to take away from Pornhub’s marketing, is that you can be a brand with a broad audience, and still demand newsworthy status. No matter what your services are, you can still be creative enough to go viral. The trick is to tap into your playfulness and be aware of the digital environment you want to operate in.




Jodie Harris heads up the Digital PR division at MediaVision. She has worked in publication relations since 2008. She specialises in bringing the rules of traditional PR to a digital platform.