There are events in every industry where the latest products and innovations are presented to the public with great fanfare – be it TVs at CES, cars at the Geneva motor show, or the latest video games at E3. The masses shuffle through the aisles and stand in line to take a look at the new products before they hit the market. However, if you look at the b2c events in the adult industry, you will find that none of those shows have managed to mobilise big consumer crowds lately.
Our industry is changing, and has been doing so for quite some time. Sex shops have become erotic boutique, instead of flesh-coloured hard plastic vibrators, the consumers prefer designer objects, and pornography is confined to the side lines in many a store. I don’t think any of these developments are bad, on the contrary. They are at the same time fuelled by, and fuelling changes in society. Vibrators, dildos, etc. have been freed from the dark corners of society as a result of this development, and step by step, they are turning into perfectly “normal” products.
So, if you have trade shows that are centred around such products and developments, why not have some of them be accessible to the public? There are no reasons not to do it. The only problem is, if you look at the event programme of b2c shows in the adult industry right now, you will find that they are mostly about porn and explicit live shows. While in the real world, couples’ products and women-friendly stores are dominating the industry, these events seem to somehow be stuck in the past. Sure, consumer shows of that type draw a certain audience, and they probably always will. But the way things seem right now, they are on the way to becoming niche events themselves.
Another problem is that nowadays, consumers are used to getting information and buying products in a different way. You don’t have to go to a b2c show to learn about new products. So, unless they are going to these events for the pornography and the strip shows, consumers have probably become less inclined to visit a b2c show throughout the past few years. There may be more acceptance for, and interest in adult products, but if you are only interested in the products, there are better ways to stay informed than going to events where the focus is on rather explicit entertainment.
What’s more: Producers that have gone to great lengths to create a modern brand image and appeal to women and couples may think twice before presenting their products in such an environment. So that’s another downside. Which is a shame, because trade and industry are clearly interested in such events. Trade shows allow for direct and personal contact with the customers; you present your new products, get feedback, and at the same time, it’s a big get-together of people who share the same interests. In the field of b2b shows, the organisers have long since adapted to the reality of the market. Now we’ll have to wait and see if and when that transition takes place in the b2c area.
Let’s get this out of the way first: I don’t have much enthusiasm for b2c adult shows, no matter which concept they pursue. I don’t have the fondest memories of these events or my time there. However, you don’t have to be a fan of b2c shows to see that they serve a purpose in our industry. There can be no doubt that many people are interested in the world of erotica, and of course, the companies in our industry need ways to target their potential audience. Seems simple enough, but there is a problem: There is only a very limited number of channels to directly approach the consumers. For various reasons that we all know, there aren’t a ton of opportunities for establishing contact.
While everybody is talking about how the adult market is getting closer and closer to the mainstream, we mustn’t forget that there are still quite a few restrictions when it comes to advertising, promotions, publicity work, etc. We can’t bombard the consumers with adult products the way other industries are bombarding them with consumer goods. Therefore, adult b2c shows represent one of the few tools in the industry’s arsenal that actually allow it to present adult products directly to the masses. At these shows, we can leave our niche and maybe win over new consumer groups. Some say that most of the visitors at these shows are already dyed-in-the-wool fans and aficionados, but that argument only really applies to shows that cater to a male audience and put the emphasis on live shows with lots of bare skin. However, this group is not the key audience of the adult industry anymore, as everybody will confirm. Now, if a b2c show managed to get the attention of the modern clientele, you’d probably see lots of new customers among the visitors. Therefore, it all comes down to how you present such a show.
It is obvious that adult shows for consumers are not as relevant as they once were because the consumers have access to other, easier sources of information than they had 20 years ago – not to mention access to new formats of ‘erotic entertainment’. But I wonder, is that development really the sole reason why long-standing and once well-established shows have shrunken in size or have disappeared altogether? Or could it be that certain topics and attractions can’t draw big crowds from the woodwork anymore? Is the format of b2c shows outdated in the eyes of the modern consumer, or is it just the concept most of them stick to? The truth is probably somewhere in between, and as we all know, exceptions prove the rule.