Reckitt Benckiser Revives Home Sex Parties

Durex Marketer Wants to Get Guests Atwitter About 'Wegasms'

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- How do you get women to talk more about condoms, lubricants and sex aids on Facebook and Twitter?

It turns out having them throw parties for their friends and supplying them all with big boxes of samples along with drink cozies emblazoned with the slogan "Stick It In" can help. At least that's what ReckittBenckiser has found with Durex, which on Jan. 29 tried its second go-round with House Party, a firm that arranges in-home gathering to build buzz about new products.

RB, which also markets such brands as Finish, Airwick, Lysol and Mucinex, closed on its deal to buy Durex along with the rest of former parent SSL since the brand's first round of house parties in October. But it's committed to keep holding the events, because the last time the parties boosted online buzz around Durex by 40%, said Brian Smith, digital strategist at Ogilvy Public Relations, which works on the brand for RB. They also pushed the brand to nearly 20,000 "likes" on Facebook.

Once again last weekend the parties proved to be an occasion for tweeters to laud the talk about the "Wegasm " (that's a Durex trademark) weekend getaway sweepstakes.

"Talking about sex is kind of taboo, especially in an online environment where people don't really want to get into the nitty gritty of their relationships and what products they're using to enhance them," said Emily Bourdet, brand manager of Durex. "This gives them a comfortable environment where they can talk about it in their homes."

But partiers seemed to have no trouble loosening up. Among morning-after photos posted on the wall of the Durex USA Facebook page was a woman dangling a condom filled apparently with cake frosting above her open mouth.

"We always talk about taking brand intimacy to scale," said House Party CEO Kitty Kolding, whose company has helped arrange thousands of events for dozens of brands such as Pull-Ups, KraftFoods and Johnsonville sausage, tapping a database of more than 100,000 willing hostesses. "In this case, intimacy takes on a whole new meaning."

Durex joins a host of sex-product marketers stepping up promotions around Valentine's Day, including such direct sellers as Pure Romance, Church & Dwight Co.'s Trojan and Johnson & Johnson, marketer of K-Y, which a few years back coined the term "sex holidays" to describe Valentine's Day and less-obvious occasions, such as Memorial Day and Labor Day, when sales of its products would heat up.

But anyone expecting to see condoms fly off the shelves the next couple of weeks may be disappointed. "It's not a hugely seasonal category," Ms. Bourdet said. "Within the major holidays for condoms and lubricants, this is one of the big ones. But I wouldn't say it's like the hot dog category, where in the summer months you see these giant spikes."

Even so, she said, "We know consumers are looking to enhance their love lives in advance of this holiday, and we want to be out there before the holiday so this is front of mind. "

Right now, RB is happy with House Party as a way to build Durex's social-media following and awareness and has yet to peg a direct sales lift to the tactic, but hopes to be able to eventually, Ms. Bourdet said.

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