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Porn to Sell

Product placement comes to adult videos...hey, watch where you put that thing!

"Product placement in porn was inevitable," says Coltrane Curtis, head of marketing for the New Jersey-based Ecko, whose clothes have turned up in dozens of hip-hop videos by the likes of De La Soul, Ice Cube, and Cash Money. "It was a matter of time. We've had placement in other films, so why not porn? We've always taken risks, and this is a risk. But the fact is, guys who watch porn movies have no style. They look like nuts, like porn cats. All they talk about is their dicks, so now they can talk about our gear."

Unlike most traditional product-placement deals, this one costs Ecko absolutely nothing: Curtis sends the clothes to Vivid publicist Brian Gross, who conceived the idea last year, and Gross gets them in the movies, simple as that. (The line will begin showing up in Vivid's feature-length films later this year.) It is, as Gross says, a "straight-up deal": Vivid gets to be associated with one of the leading urban-wear manufacturers, and Ecko gains some exposure among the 18- to 35-year-old demographic that likes to watch movies with its pants down.

The two companies also work together during cross-promotional events: This spring, Ecko threw spring-break parties in South Padre, Texas, and South Beach, Florida, where Vivid girls showed up wearing Ecko clothes, and on August 6, the companies will throw a kick-off party at a New York City club called Fun. Vivid's flying in six of its actresses, including Kobe Tai, at no cost to Ecko. At the same time, Vivid gets free use of Ecko's so-called "street teams," otherwise known as guys who go around different cities plastering the companies' posters and stickers on barren walls. "This is," as Curtis reminds, "a deal between friends," as is another product-placement deal Vivid has with a Michigan-based company called Not-A-Beanbag.com, which sells foam-filled "poof" chairs.

Come and get it: As this scene clearly demonstrates, women love a man in Ecko gear.
Come and get it: As this scene clearly demonstrates, women love a man in Ecko gear.

"Every mainstream facet of entertainment has found room and has tried to combine forces with the adult industry more than ever, because there has been a social acceptance of porn," says Gross, who pushed product for Elektra Records before making the leap to the more honest world of adult films. "When people wear Porn Star shirts, it's an accepted trend or fad."

The Internet has turned porn from a trench-coat biz into a legit, profitable enterprise that no longer hides in the musty dark. For a few bucks, you can tune in and turn on without ever leaving the house-though even if you do feel the need to go out for your porn, most of your finer adult-video shops are staffed and populated by friendly folk unabashed about cruising for kink in brightly lit, cleanly swept boutiques. In Los Angeles, Larry Flynt's Hustler store, in the heart of the old Sunset Strip, is that damnedest of combinations: coffee shop crossed with porn-video retailer, with lotions and mainstream magazines and Porn Star T-shirts there to fill in the gaps. It's the Borders and Gap of sex: Porn goes to the chain store.

"My profession is now much more socially accepted with people I meet now than when I started," Jenteal says. "I don't get the same disrespect that I got then. It seems to get better every day, and I don't think my 'past' is going to haunt me or inhibit me from getting mainstream jobs. I'm a personality. My name is Jenteal, and it's always going to be Jenteal. Traci Lords might have run from her past, but I will always embrace my roots."

Vivid, following the lead of the Playboy Channel, has made hardcore porn even more accessible than logging on. The company owns a handful of pay-per-view outlets, including The Hot Zone and The Hot Network, available on both DirecTV and AT&T's cable system. For eight bucks a pop, viewers can use their remote controls-with their free hand, one assumes-to dial up such titles as Sweet Summer Sex Kittens and Magnum Love, which are far more explicit than films aired on Playboy. Indeed, those movies make hotel porn look like Disney Channel fare-which is why, just last week, a coalition of AT&T shareholders, including a handful of mutual fund groups, demanded the telecommunications giant dump Vivid's networks from its cable roster. The coalition, according to The Associated Press, claims to own a combined 2.8 million shares of AT&T, a small percentage.

"We just don't like the idea of AT&T carrying hard-core pornography on its distribution system," one portfolio manager told the AP last Wednesday. AT&T Broadband's president, Daniel Somers, insists that the programming will be carried only in areas where customers demand it-which would be, oh, everywhere. Vivid's adult-vid channels are available in more than 21 million homes, including, no doubt, yours.

And the porn blitz is not limited to the United States. Last week, the British Board of Film Classification ruled that, for the first time, hardcore porn can be sold at licensed sex retailers and shown on satellite television systems. Fay Weldon, author of The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and a member of the BBFC's Video Appeals Committee, said in last Wednesday's London Times that "porn is really Viagra without damage to the liver."

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