Earlier this month, Kanye West gave Greg Lansky some killer press — a totally honest and impromptu shout out on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Kimmel asked West if his attitudes toward women had changed since becoming the father of two daughters. Maybe or maybe not (I find comparative discussions regarding a person’s feelings toward adult women and small children to be somewhat complex and often fraught, but that’s another subject), but he did say “Blacked is my favorite.” “Blacked” meaning porn — porn made by Lansky specifically.
The day after West gave Lansky said super nod, Lansky issued a formal invitation to West, inviting him to direct content for Blacked — “with full artistic control on your end,” Lansky assured.
“You can’t buy that kind of free advertising,” Lansky told writer Eric Spitznagal. “For me, it’s proof that some of the most influential people in the world look at our brands.”
News of West’s fondness for Lansky’s content wasn’t super surprising. People love the media Lansky creates, and for weeks prior to this Kimmel/Kanye shoutout, Spitznagal had been working on a piece for AdAge about Lansky. In fact, I spoke to Spitznagal in July (pre-Kanye) and then again for a mid-August follow up about Lansky and what makes his marketing and brand development unique.
You can read Spitznagal’s piece — “Kanye West’s Favorite Pornographer is a Master of SFW Marketing” (Aug. 17, 2018) — in AdAge right here. And as per usual, you can read my full comments regarding this story below. Enjoy!
Eric Spitznagal: [Regarding how Lansky] uses Instagram… Is it an interesting strategy for a porn producer to market towards an audience without using explicit images? Do you believe him when he claims that it’s building his audience?
DrCT: Paying very close attention to Instagram is not an unusual approach for any brand or personality these days. Instagram is so important in its capacity to build brand awareness and shift public perception, and it seems that organizations and personalities from all industries know this.
Obviously Greg Lansky has a lot of resources that he is clearly pouring into Insta – a platform that seems actively and almost directly opposed to adult entertainment (e.g. uneven enforcement of content policies, alleged different standards for erotic models and porn performers verses “mainstream” models in similar poses and images, etc) — without a direct metric to evaluate his ROI. I am inclined to believe his claims that he is building an audience though, simply on the basis of the off-platform attention he has garnered. Because again, no brand has a direct ROI for Insta, and every brand seems to have an awareness of the power of the space. Simply by being competitive in that “mainstream” context, Lansky is altering the public perception of art and adult entertainment.
(pictured: image via Lansky’s Insta, cropped version via AdAge)
Follow Up, August 14 (I was traveling, so these responses were formulated on a plane!)
ES: I need to get more insight on WHY what Lansky is doing is unique. He’s not the only one using Instagram to advertise his products, and companies like Brazzers and Reality Kings have considerably more followers…
DrCT: Well, the number of followers is one thing… follower engagement is another.
Though I can’t speak the demographics that make up any of these brands’ followers, I expect Lansky has a more engaged base, as well as a base that is interested in his content for porn, as well as for other things – lifestyle, attitude/world view, engagement with public personalities they admire, meaningful work that has a larger social impact, etc. Put simply, it’s more stimulating (and less socially stigmatizing) to like Lansky than it is Brazzers, etc – one is strictly JO material, the other can be presented as a wider picture than *just* that.
(We must always be mindful how stigmatizing it is still today for people to be public about their sexual proclivities, including what kinds of porn they like.)
ES: His content isn’t especially unique, as far as I can tell. Sure, he spends a lot on production costs, but so does Vivid…
DrCT: Vivid is not a good example to use here as a comparative. They haven’t shot content in years (literally, years). They were recently acquired by a larger company – I *think* it was Gamma, though I would need to double check and I don’t have internet right now because flying – so production under the Vivid label/brand may resume… but who knows? Currently, pre-acquisition Vivid mostly banked on their radio station, legally acquired pre-shot sex tapes (e.g. the Kim Kardashian sex tape – content that they do not produce), and strip clubs.
IMO, the best company to compare to Lansky’s brands/content currently is Evil Angel (EA). Though the sex tenor across the board in EA is, in general, far different (more hardcore) than Lanksy’s, EA is US-based (so, mostly under the same production restrictions, though some of their directors shoot outside the US. Lansky does occasionally too though), primarily vignette or all-sex in form, and most scenes are highly stylized… Fairly similar to Lansky in a few comparative respects and way more so than Vivid.
ES: His genres aren’t all that unusual. I mean, black guys having sex with white girls? Haven’t we seen that a thousand times before? So what makes him stand apart?
DrCT: What makes Lansky stand apart is, first and foremost, the way he conceptualizes, shoots, and markets content, especially when he first began Blacked. Though highly fraught and touching on myriad wider social issues and inequalities, for better and probably for worse, there is a huge demand for “IR” content. Prior to Lansky, for the most part, “IR” content was produced in a very narrow range, much of which was both raunchy and racist. This could be present/augmented at any or all stages of production, from conceptualization to actual sex performance to marketing.
Though still a genre fraught with issues on a wider social level, Lansky expanded the scope of “IR” content to include material that was different within the space, which certainly connected with some existing fans of the genre as well as — I would imagine — other, new viewers that were previously put off by the tenor of the genre. He has been copied/”copied” quite a bit since. (See things like DarkX)
The second and possibly more significant difference though – something that sets him apart from others producing in the same genres as well as other companies that have a big public front (Brazzers, EA, etc) — is his insistence that his work is not work at all, but art, and that the people involved in production are also artists and skilled creators themselves.
This assertion has certainly allowed people who may be squeamish or outright discriminatory about porn to consume the content with less personal anxiety. It’s art, after all. It has also really served to facilitate a cornerstone of pride amongst performers, as well as other members of the community. This language has been adopted by countless performers and has even been taken up by producers (see for example the iWantEmpire “artists,” which is their chosen vernacular now as well).
ES: I think it might have to do with his growth.
DrCT: Absolutely, that too.
ES: He’s told me that his site traffic is up 240 percent since last year on the Vixen page alone, and followers are now exceeding two million across all brands. Are those numbers out of the ordinary? Is his company growing at a faster rate than other porn companies?
DrCT: If that number is accurate, which outside of seeing his proverbial books there is no way to verify… Also, there is no way to compare his growth to peer growth outside of seeing similar stats from other companies, which there is not public access to either… (One could get clever and use hosting stats or payment processing fees to assess business viability, but these are also figures that are not publically available.)
So though we cannot verify growth as it stands alone, nor can we verify growth as it compares to others, what can be used to assess these types of claims are the moves that are being made. While some production companies are being acquired, Lansky seems to be independent. While some companies are outright closing, Lansky is expanding. While some companies are squeezing more and more work out of directors and crew for lower rates, Lansky’s high scene rates are widely discussed amongst the community.
One could certainly do a far better job of determining metrics and analyzing their meaning than I have here (on a plane), but quick indicators point to his growth being fairly out of the ordinary for contemporary porn for sure.
ES: What is the state of porn right now? Is it an oversaturated market? Is Lansky unique in that he’s growing at a faster rate than his competitors?
DrCT: Porn currently is not oversaturated so much as it’s shifting.
The public has shown over and over again that, with the help of piracy-based tube sites facilitating a “stealing-as-consumption” consumption model, they do not feel porn is a product worth paying for. Now, this certainly is tied in with wider social stigma associated with sex media consumption (“I can’t pay for porn because then people will know what I like!” etc), but the public chooses to continue to exploit and dehumanize performers and producers by not paying for their work, both in spite of and regardless.
As a consequence, porn as an industry is in the process of adapting to challenges, as well as evolving with changing times. You can see this in the rise of new forms of sex media – webcam specifically. You can see this in the revitalization and new use of long-existing forms of adult content – clips and customs specifically. And you can see this in the throwback to and modernization of old school sex media forms – phone sex and texting for instance.
Within this, you see long standing conventional content producers trying to adapt, and you see new “conventional” content producers coming on to the scene already diversified. This last iteration is where we see Lansky’s work situated in terms of production form. And within this landscape – a widely dismissive public and an industry in the midst of an amalgamation of survival adaptation and natural evolution – if the numbers Lansky is reporting are accurate, his growth is wholly unique indeed.
(pictured: image via Lansky’s Insta, cropped version via AdAge)
Keyboard image via Ian Fain.
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