Selling Sex (with Ads) for the Super Bowl – It’s All Too Easy
Super Bowl Sunday is definitely a focal point of attention for many reasons, with the actual football game often coming in last. A cultural phenomenon and national spectacle which draws in millions of viewers who only occasionally follow sports as well as billions of dollars in advertising, the National Football League’s title match takes the prize in American grandeur. While Super Bowl host cities covet the increased tax revenues and boost in local business traffic, it also comes with a host of headaches including traffic, petty crime, drunken brawls, fears of terrorism and the seediest of all: an increase in sex trafficking. Some say claims that demand for “escorts” or perhaps “call girls” increases during Super Bowl weekend are not true, but the reality behind the sex trade is a shocking and painful nightmare. The claim that prostitution is a “victimless crime” ignores the backside of an illicit trade that functions through addiction, violence and coercion. Very few people likely choose to be prostitutes; many are forced into it to some extent. Many of these women, include a large number that are underage, are controlled by people who force them to perform sexual acts on strangers for money.
A huge part of this illicit industry now exists openly on the Internet. One of the most prominent places for so-called escort ads is on YouTube. The searches for sex on YouTube are easily localized with “meet local escorts New York” or “North Jersey Escorts” returning many videos offering various types of women.
These videos contain phone numbers and websites which lead to very coordinated operations.
Local authorities and action groups are making a big push to combat human trafficking during the Super Bowl with enforcement and awareness campaigns. The Polaris Project has blanketed “Super Bowl Alley,” the stretch from Herald Square to Times Square, with anti-sex traffic advertising. While this effort is on the streets, and much of the trafficking occurs in public places, the online space needs serious attention. The ease with which a number of prostitution outlets can be found is staggering. YouTube is not just for sex advertising; it’s also for recruitment.
And even in the most risqué of videos, we still see ads running just to the right. Do you wonder if this the kind of video that Christian Mingle wants its ads running along side (see below)? Does it seem right that P&G would use a video like what you see below to sell Pampers? It is highly possible that these are blind advertisements, run without the knowledge of the advertiser. It is hard to imagine this is the kind of promotion premium brands want. Perhaps the bigger question, should YouTube and Google be making money off of this kind of video?