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Loose Cannon: Getting Horizontal in a Vertical Industry

By Apr 19, 1999

(Welcome to Loose Cannon, a staff-written editorial focusing on issues of interest to the direct marketing community. To respond to this week’s editorial via e-mail, please send your message to richard_levey@intertec.com.)

Erotica USA ended yesterday after a four-day run at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. The adult product and entertainment show featured panels, fashion shows, and exhibiting merchants that ranged from fetish wear to videos and magazines. Conspicuously absent were vendors from the direct marketing community.

It’s not that there isn’t money to be made in this arena. The adult industry is acknowledged to be a multi-, multi-billion dollar industry. The only direct marketing companies taking advantage of the forum were a handful of “host your own erotic Web site” vendors. To my mind, there should have been more.

Conversations with exhibiting merchants revealed a broad range of marketing sophistication. Those that operate Web sites use them as little more than order-taking mechanisms. Many are turning away from issuing full catalogs in favor of the Internet, not aware of the ability database management and customized printing offers to cut down on printing and mailing costs and increase return through targeting techniques.

The margins are there: Pleasure Productions, Hightstown, NJ, charges a premium above the cost of mainstream adult movies for fetish videos. With specialized merchandise, industry wisdom holds, consumers will pay extra for material not readily available.

So where were the printers offering the ability to customize mailing pieces at a lower cost than full catalog jobs? Where were the software companies offering in-house database systems to capture, manage, and market based on customer preferences? Where were the list companies that manage files of adult magazine readers?

Sadly, the only form of direct response marketing in evidence was small-scale. Early in the day an enterprising deliveryman from a local Chinese restaurant made his way from booth to booth, silently dropping menus among the various catalogs and product displays.