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Mainstream and adult marketing divide

from – It feels as though it happened yesterday, but in reality this incident happened early last year during Affiliate Summit Las Vegas.

That show has overlapped with a variety of conferences, only natural given the abundance of events and relatively limited number of weeks in the year. This particular overlap didn’t occur with just any conference; it happened with the adult webmaster show. If you thought our space had money to spend, all it took was one walk through the Palms to really make your head spin. One company had paid to have their advertisement – a photo of their three members of their team – displayed in beyond life size, encompassing all of the hotel’s registration desk.

Other banners of sorts hung from the ceiling near registration for another company. It was an incident in the elevator though which most stuck out in my mind, one in which a fellow old school performance marketer and I were joined by two guys from the internet marketing world but not one with which I was familiar. They looked like two guys who met a hot girl that said sarcastically “Nice shirt” only for them to take her seriously and express their bromance by only wearing clothing from Affliction.

For years I had known that not all in online marketing were alike, but never before would I have thought a group of people, all of whom had worked in the performance-based internet advertising industry, could have less in common. Whereas we spoke of revenue per thousand, they talked of “one in what.” AzoogleAds – they hadn’t heard of them. Nor did we of theirs, which was something like Pink Pays. It was then that I realized just how far apart we really were. But that’s ok, really. Stepping back, it makes sense that adult internet marketing and mainstream internet marketing would differ. While almost everyone I know has joked that they should have worked in adult, most don’t really want to do it.

There’s something to be said for being able to tell the broader world what you do and have them respect you for the work that you do instead of just envy the money you appear to have. In other words, it takes a special breed of person, with nothing negative implied, to work in that industry, and the overlap exists but in smaller quantities. Thus, after the incident, I took it for what it was, a sign showing that it makes sense that our skills sets aren’t as easily transposable as I might have assumed.

If I had to categorize the difference between what I felt our version of performance marketing and theirs was, I would say lifestyle development versus business development. The group we met and saw lived large – lots of bling, opposite sex company, cocksure attitude, and a carefree attitude. They represent to many exactly what they want in life – that snapshot of success and wealth that could highlight a work from home landing page – the type of spirit that would make for that perfect first person story of success online.

That image would drive plenty of people to wish for such a life, and at some level we understand, but at another level, what we saw in that elevator was an unexpected glimpse into our future if we aren’t careful. Great of a lifestyle as many of them have, their world has become a world unto itself. By virtue of what they promote, they certainly don’t care, but it’s a conscious decision, the ramifications of which don’t bother them.

The divide between mainstream and adult hasn’t changed, but looking back on the incident now and looking at where some of our industry has gone, this divide between adult and mainstream marketers is starting to develop within the mainstream performance marketing community. The world of affiliate advertising and arbitrage based affiliate advertising has always had some fundamental distinctions, but the cultural differences between the two camps are starting to become more and more exaggerated.

That’s not a problem if everyone involved has, like the adult marketers, chosen to go down a path of industry isolation – one that separates themselves from companies they might wish to deal with on a close level – all mainstream websites and search engines. They have traffic sources, but they too are a nation onto themselves, a profitable one but a nation unto themselves.

Choosing to go down such a path is one thing, but if those in the industry don’t want to go down that path, it’s a another. We’re going to find ourselves there, shunned from a large and potentially helpful group of companies that include traffic sources and funding sources. Where as they tolerate some of the cat and mouse behavior today, we will find ourselves more and more written into terms and conditions of sites. Again, that’s fine if we want to go there, but we should all agree to such a path and understand what such a choice means.

For now, it’s less about us choosing and more about us acting in a way that isolates us. It can be a fun a little country we have; the adult guys aren’t for want. Ask anyone who has switched over from adult to mainstream, though, and it’s tough grind, sort of like the difference between operating in a third-world country versus a first-world one. If we want to continue being on the path of a first-world, we aren’t doing a great job of it.


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