Zomato decided to advertise on porn websites. Here’s what happened next.

Zomato decided to advertise on porn websites. Here’s what happened next.

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According to a popular report published in NY Times, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former Google Data Scientist:

“We search for doctors at 8:20 a.m., recipes at 4:52 p.m. and enlightenment at 3:16 a.m. ‘Suicide’ is googled the most at 12:36 a.m., and between 2 to 3 a.m., search rates for “forgot password” are 60 percent higher than average. Porn, on the other hand leads every other search term at 1 a.m.”

The last part of the report is exactly what Zomato – the fastest growing Indian startup in the food space, decided to cash on.

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“The first thing you try and work out before you start a marketing campaign is whether the ROI is going to be worth it. Specific to the online ordering business, there are a dozen ways to spend money to try and convert intent into a transaction,” they wrote on the Zomato blog, in regards to their recent marketing campaign.

So, what is this recent marketing campaign, you ask, and how is it related to porn? Well, Zomato turned to the popular porn websites for advertising, to explore an entirely new marketing domain, and see how it could help them.

The idea:

“We were talking about how to tap into the already buzzing late-night delivery space, and started looking at innovative marketing opportunity areas. Highly optimised Adwords, Facebook, and Twitter ad campaigns are commoditised and therefore quite expensive. The alternative seemed almost obvious when someone said ‘Hey we should try advertising on porn sites’, and then justified it with ‘look, people watch porn, and people get hungry, so stop judging me.’

It was an idea worth looking into at the very least, so we did.”

What they discovered:

“As it turns out:

  • India ranks #5 in terms of most daily visitors to Pornhub (the world’s biggest porn site network)
  • Outside of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and e-commerce sites, Xvideos is one of India’s top visited sites
  • The average time spent on the site by Indians is ~8 minutes (yes, really, just 8 minutes #quickgunmurugan)”


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The Process:

“Apart from this being the first time we got to visit adult websites for official work purposes (you know, for ‘research’), or legitimately have a folder labelled ‘Porn’ sitting on our desktops, this was a fun exercise. We got down to work in two teams – one would set up our accounts on Traffic Junky and Traffic Factory (the ad networks serving the top porn sites), while our creative team did all the hard work of making our display ads (cue hushed voices, sniggering, many high-fives, and some jokes too naughty to publish) -“

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The goal was clear – get people to click. Our strategy for this was fairly straightforward, too – create something that’ll take people’s eyes off the video, they’ll click the banner because they’re (obviously) getting hungry now, and then they’ll order online on Zomato. The easiest part was creating ads that didn’t look like all other ads on porn sites, because most ads on porn sites are for…wait for it…more porn!

We ran these ads on desktop and mobile sites, between 11 pm and 4 am – when late-night delivery restaurants are at their busiest (we have a fair idea what people who order food that late at night have been doing to work up an appetite). These ads appeared on video landing pages, just to the right of the video window:

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The Aftermath:

“A week into advertising on some of the internet’s naughtiest pages, here are some statistics and insights from our little experiment.

  • Advertising on porn sites costs very little money, and is significantly cheaper than other platforms. Like, significantly cheaper. Just look at these numbers:
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  • People in Delhi NCR clicked on these banners the most on desktops, at an average click-through rate (CTR) of 0.12% while Bangalore came (*teehee*) a close second with an average CTR of 0.11%. The campaign average CTR so far is at 0.22%.
  • At a more granular level, the highest number of clicks in Delhi came from around the Hauz Khas area. We can’t say for sure why that happened, but IIT-Delhi is in the area, so…
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    In Bangalore, Koramangala was hands down the naughtiest part of town, while in Mumbai, Powai gets down and dirty the most.
  • The BBW/Big Beautiful Wraps ad was our best performing desktop ad (no surprises there); the “Hot Sticky Mess” and “Hot Singles” ads also did really well.

Turns out advertising on a porn site is a great idea if ridiculously low CPCs turn you on. These are pretty awesome numbers by any standard, and we’re quite pleased with the number of clicks and app installs driven by these ads so far. Are these installs going to convert to orders? We’ll keep you posted on how many people skip going back to Sunny Leone, and choose to go down on a Big Beautiful Wrap instead.”

Well, that was a creative way to approach marketing, don’t you think? Also, Zomato is looking for interns – so you should apply now.

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