Why Pornhub’s ‘cleaner beaches’ campaign sees it accused of woke washing

Why Pornhub’s ‘cleaner beaches’ campaign sees it accused of woke washing

The Background

Pornhub is the largest porn site in the world. 

In 2018, there were 33.5 billion visits to the site, an average of 92 million a day. More people took the time to vote for their favourite video than voted in the last US presidential election. 

Pornhub has a philanthropic arm and for several years has run campaigns aimed at raising money and awareness for cancer research, education and the environment. 

‘The Dirtiest Porn Ever’ is its newest social initiative: a beach clean-up campaign. 

Launching the campaign, Corey Price, vice president of Pornhub said “We’re dirty here at Pornhub, but that doesn’t mean our beaches need to be”.

The Big Idea

Pornhub partnered with Ocean Polymers, a recycling technology company that collects and processes plastic from the ocean and turns it into fuel. 

Ocean Polymers project and operations manager, Heather Wigglesworth, said “(Pornhub) is a brand with significant global reach spanning all demographics, so it is a very effective platform to raise awareness and support for the crisis we face in our oceans today. It would be great to see more companies of this size and stature taking the same responsibility.”

What They Did

Pornhub’s “Dirtiest Porn Ever’ stars a well-known porn star couple having sex on a beach. 

But you can’t see what’s going on because they are camouflaged by discarded pieces of plastic. You do see cleaners in Pornhub branded hazmat suits picking up the rubbish. 

To watch the video without the obscured view, users must visit Pornhub’s website. For every completed view of the uncensored video, Pornhub will give a donation to Ocean Polymers. A donation. No mention of how much money the world’s largest porn site will be donating per view or for how long.  

The Review

The creative is fine, the execution is fine, the agency has done its job and the message is clear. But there is a strong whiff of purpose washing here. 

Putting the ethics surrounding the porn industry aside (and for many that won’t be possible), I can’t get past the tokenism of this campaign.

Pornhub doesn’t tell me how much is being donated per view or what success will look like and because of that this campaign is certainly dirty – in marketing tactics. 

We have seen brilliant examples of young people making us all listen to the urgency of our climate emergency. Pornhub looks like a brand trying to align itself to their passion, creating brand awareness and loyalty within this demographic. 

Pornhub is hitching a ride with environmental causes and consequently risks legitimising porn to a young audience who might otherwise be immune to it and that’s a big turn off. 

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