Pornhub’s Valentine’s Day pop-up is unexpectedly buttoned-up

'We don’t have to have everything be about sex. It can be about love. It helps to build the brand'

Published On
Feb 14, 2020

Editor's Pick

For Valentine’s Day, Pornhub is acting more PG than NSFW.

The adult entertainment website typically uses the holiday to offer its Premium subscription service for free through its website, Pornhub.com. This year, Pornhub is promoting Premium with a Valentine’s Day pop-up store and social campaign in New York City—only the experience isn’t quite what you would expect.

Pornhub opened a space in Manhattan’s Soho district for two days to sell last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts. You might envision sex toys, posters of naked models or silly gag kama sutra books; anything relating to what Pornhub is known for serving up—visions of sex.

But, the experience, which is open until 9 p.m. on Valentine's Day, is more, dare I say, classy? If not classy, then at least tasteful. The space is decorated with soft touches coupled with classic Valentine’s themes—baby pink balloons fill the windows, blush-pink curtains hang around the room and red rose bouquets sit on countertops. A neon pink sign reading “Love at first site” is positioned above a suede couch, also pink, ready for Instagram-worthy selfies. Sensual sayings like “I’m heels behind head in love” and “Porn is in the air” embellish the walls.

On sale are typical PG Valentine’s Day gifts, except everything is branded with a pink or red Pornhub heart logo. In the middle of the store is a bathtub filled with $20 teddy bears wearing Pornhub heart shirts, regular Pornhub T-shirts are for $28, mugs sell for $15 and bouquets of roses for $130.

There are still plenty of suggestive items, but still nothing as overt as say, a vibrator. You can find Valentine’s Day cards with sayings like “I cho, cho, choke you” or “I can’t take my thighs off of you” for $5 each. Boxes of chocolates read “eat me” and little squares of candy hearts are definitely not the same ones you grew up with—their messages are the names of video categories found on Pornhub.

The shop counters Pornhub’s first pop-up store in 2017. That experience, also located in New York City but not tied to any holiday, sold items from the site’s streetwear collection, like Pornhub-branded hoodies, tank tops and, yes, sex toys in a partnership with the Museum of Sex. So, why take the opposite approach this time around?   

“The idea was not to make a sex shop,” says Alex Katz, co-founder and executive creative director at Officer & Gentlemen, the Madrid-based creative agency behind the pop-up. “We don’t have to have everything be about sex. It can be about love. It helps to build the brand. We want people to see the safe-for-work aspect of the brand, too.”

The ultimate vision, he says, is to be a brand like Playboy, that it isn’t only associated with naked pinup models. “People wear Playboy logos and don’t read Playboy,” he says. Katz explains that there are a lot of people who come to the site who don’t view porn at all, they might watch videos from comedians like Ryan Creamer, a CollegeHumor cast member who, despite his name, makes wholesome, humorous videos for Pornhub and has more than 38,000 subscribers.

“The idea here is to be really cute,” he says. “It’s quite wholesome.”

It’s not the first time Pornhub has veered away from outright sexual content in its advertising. The brand’s latest philanthropic campaign, the “Dirtiest Porn Ever,” called upon people to donate to Ocean Polymers, a British recycling company dedicated to cleaning the world’s oceans.

Still, the goal with the pop-up store is to get more people hooked on its ad-free Premium subscription service, which normally costs $9.99 a month. Visitors receive a free month’s worth of Premium when they purchase an item at the pop-up store. And it's an approach that works. Katz says Pornhub sees more sign-ups for Premium on Valentine’s Day than any other day. He adds that the site expects to see between 5 and 8 million visitors per day in the coming days through Valentine’s Day and the weekend. Last year, traffic rose by 8 percent on Valentine’s Day, according to the brand.  

“For the last several years we have upheld a tradition of offering free Premium to everyone on Valentine's Day, and we opened this shop with the intention of being a part of our fans' Valentine's Day celebrations in more ways than one,” said Corey Price, vice president at Pornhub in a statement.

The pop-up shop and the offer of a free month of Premium is being promoted through a digital and social campaign starring Pornhub star and brand ambassador Asa Akira. Pornhub worked with Officer & Gentlemen to create a website at premiumvalentine.com where fans can make their own interactive videos with Akira, Pornhub star Rod Jackson and CollegeHumor’s Creamer to send to their friends and gift them a link to a free month of Premium. Katz says Pornhub is also sending videos to celebrities who have interacted with the brand on social before, including Diplo, Lizzo, Chrissy Teigen and even Elon Musk.

Akira is also making appearances at the pop-up shop along with models from Pornhub’s Model Program, where amateurs can sell their own videos on the site and get paid a percentage made from the ad revenue.