EXPO 2022 | Aug 14-17 | Bally's Las Vegas

EXPO Keynote Address 2013

EXPO-2013-Logo-coverageEXPO Keynote Address 2013 Vivid Entertainment’s Steven Hirsch

In the realm of adult entertainment, few have equaled the success of Steven Hirsch. As founder and co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment Group—the most recognizable brand of adult film both in America and internationally—Hirsch’s version of erotica has systematically transformed the ‘dirty’ movie business into the mainstream entity and pop culture powerhouse audiences relish all over the world. As the EXPO 2013 Keynote Speaker, Hirsch shared his experience of rising to the top of the adult entertainment industry, and the tools he used to get there.


‘The adult industry is a different and competitive business, and one thing is for sure: If you’re not going full speed ahead,  if you’re not able to continually evolve and reinvent yourself and fully diversify your business, you will go away.
‘I started Vivid 30 years ago. When we started, the industry was much different than it is today—back then most people went into adult bookstores or put their quarter in the peep shows. But with the onset of the local video store, the audience really began to change, and that’s when we got in the business. There were several things we felt strongly about regarding the ways we could separate ourselves from our competition.

‘The first thing was the video packaging. We decided to do photo shoots with the girls where we would retouch them, and we brought in a mainstream art director. There was no nudity on our boxes—we wanted people to feel comfortable when they went into the adult section of a video store. We also signed girls in exclusive contracts. We were the first company to look at that as a way to really brand ourselves and separate ourselves from everyone else.

‘It was important that we always made quality number one; when people rented Vivid movies, they knew that they were going to get a certain level of quality.  As a result, Playboy approached us looking for a company to produce movies for them. They allowed us to double our budgets, and most importantly, they demanded that we shot on film. So there it was—beautiful girls, great packaging, high quality movies with big budgets all shot on film—that was really the beginning of the building of our brand.

‘The next thing we did was hire a New York PR firm. Back then, people didn’t want to talk about the adult business or the fact that they were in it. We wanted to change that. We went out and put together a marketing kit and hit up all of the magazines and newspapers. I think the first magazine that wrote an interesting story [on our business] was The Economist—a fairly conservative magazine. The article was about the growth of the business and the explosion of the adult industry. As a result, we started to see articles [about the adult industry] in all sorts of mainstream newspapers and magazines, and that really was the beginning of the mainstreaming of the industry.

‘Over the years, Vivid has grown and evolved, and certainly it’s changed and it’s been difficult, to say the least, to reinvent ourselves and also to stay relevant. I think there’s really two sides to that.

‘There’s the content side, and there’s the technology side. When we look at the content side, we still continue to make high-budget movies and have the best girls working with us, and we’ll continue to do that because that’s one of the things we’re known for. But it’s important for us to diversify the type of movies we produce. One of the things we started was our celebrity sex tape line. That has just been amazing, and really helped with the branding of the company. We got immense exposure as a result. Another thing we’ve done is produce super hero parody movies. As long as we pay attention to detail and really try to get it right—people are interested.

‘The point I’m making is that it’s important to go after as much marketshare and shelf space as humanly possible. It’s all about diversifying what we produce and distribute.

‘And then there’s the technology side. For so many years, the adult industry was looked to as sort of the leader when it came to technology. We were the first company to release the DVD and the Blu-ray disc. We were also the first company to actually take the Internet seriously. We saw early on the revenue opportunity that could come from the Internet—the Internet now equates to probably half of our overall revenue, if not more.

‘So how does this relate to the club business? I think there are some similarities. There are thousands of clubs out there, and if you don’t separate yourself, if you’re not unique and bring some uniqueness to what you do, your competition will have a leg up on you. It’s really key to embrace old media and new media—by new media I mean social media and the Internet—and be willing to spend the money and take the time and bring the right people in to really oversee that part of your business.

‘And then there’s the girls. Certainly on the production side and the club side, it’s really about the girls. Ultimately what happened for us was that our girls became ambassadors of our company, and that was really invaluable, because overtime as new girls came into the business, our girls would tell them about Vivid and the new girls would want to be part of it. I can’t stress how important it is to do whatever it takes—and I know it sounds counterintuitive—but you’ve got to spend the money to bring in the best girls. Ultimately, they are the face, the ambassadors, of your business.

‘The next thing that’s been really important for us is to exploit the brand—it’s a priority, and it’s really about vertical integration. I think there’s a balance between old media and new media in terms of working the social media side, but also taking advantage of radio, TV and some of the other distribution methods. You have to be smart about it, and if you are, you’ll really be able to dig your own niche and people will begin to notice you, and you will ultimately separate yourself from the rest of your competition.”



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