From “Pretty Dirty” To Pivoting Early: When Brands Fizzle

Written by BREE MILLS

What’s that old saying? “If at first you don’t succeed”…? As much as we wish we could say otherwise, even we don’t always get things right on the first try. Like with any business venture, there’s always an element of risk involved in launching a new product on the market – Maybe customers won’t like it. Worse, maybe they won’t even ever HEAR about it! Maybe your product is a little too late to the market, or even too early, to find that perfect window where demand is high for whatever you’re peddling. Maybe a competitor already does what you do but better, or maybe all the moving pieces didn’t line up quite how you had originally planned them. There’s countless reasons why a brand could fizzle, or struggle to get off the ground, so what do you do when that happens? Well, sometimes you might decide to cut your losses, retiring the product and ceasing production. Other times you might double down on your investment, if you really feel you have something special on your hands and maybe you just need a different tactic to get customers interested. Or, you can do what we did with one of our more maligned and oft-forgotten product attempts from our pre-Adult Time days, Pretty Dirty: we pivoted to turn it into its successor, Pure Taboo, which then went on to become our top-selling series on Adult Time!

To understand where (we believe) our first attempt went wrong, and subsequently how we took these learning lessons and adjusted our approach, let’s first look back at how “Pretty Dirty” even came to be in the first place – since a lot of our early missteps came even before we had shot a single episode, stemming from some false assumptions and hunches that didn’t quite pan out.

Living The 2015 Dream

What a time to be in porn! Digital filmmaking and web distribution were becoming more accessible than ever, causing a boom in studio-quality content available at our fingertips. There was so much great adult entertainment being shot for fans to fall in love with, and the stars had come out to play – pornstars, that is. The likes of Adriana Chechik, Kendra Lust, Mia Malkova and Piper Perri were gracing our screens on the daily, spoiling us with one of the deepest talent pools of star-studded A-listers that we may ever see in our lifetime.

And for us in Montreal? It seemed like we could do no wrong! We had just launched Girlsway a little over a year prior, and our sapphic site was already taking the internet by storm. We were now running two successful original brands – Fantasy Massage and Girlsway – and we were ready for our next challenge. What better to tackle next, than our debut entry into that holy grail of audienceship that is straight taboo sex!

You see, as big as Girlsway was becoming, our industry research showed that the market for straight porn was significantly larger. And while Fantasy Massage did include straight series within its network, it was still a niche product with a limited ceiling for growth. If our product could do for straight audiences what Girlsway did for lesbian audiences, the world was ours for the taking!

Misters Before Sisters

Our vision for Pretty Dirty was simple – take Girlsway’s recipe and tweak it for the male-female taboo genre. Using the same crews in L.A. and the same staff in Montreal, we could seamlessly integrate this new series into our monthly production cycle without skipping a beat, guaranteeing the exact same quality and aesthetic found on Girlsway. In fact, we even used this for our early announcements, calling Pretty Dirty the “younger brother” to Girlsway’s “older sister” to try to build hype.

All we needed left was a hook and a name – we weren’t exactly going to call it “Straightsway” now were we? So we leaned into the taboo aspect of the product as our signature mark. We aimed to craft highly addictive narratives, dripping with scandal and intrigue, that would captivate straight audiences like no adult entertainment that came before it. Our golden rule was: “If it’s not tabloid-worthy, it’s not Pretty Dirty!” We expected that we could take all of the winning ingredients from Girlsway – the film style, the story themes, the cheeky humor and the two-way communication we were cultivating with our viewers through forums and comment sections – and port them successfully over to this new brand for instant success.

Well? Turns out it wasn’t QUITE so simple as that…! The brand launched to some tepid success, but nowhere near the levels of our other products, and by a few months in, our sign-ups were already stagnating. Where did we go wrong? Of course there’s no real way to tell for certain, but we have a theory…

From Big Fish In A Small Pond To Small Fish In A Big Pond

The biggest thing we feel we failed to account for was the sheer amount of straight competitor sites that were out there. Whereas for Girlsway and for Fantasy Massage, we were among the bigger players in their respective niches (especially at that time), on the straight side we were squaring up against plenty of industry titans that had already carved their places in customers’ minds by the time we arrived. We were the proverbial Davids fighting the Goliaths of porn powerhouses like Brazzers, Team Skeet, and Reality Kings, many of whom themselves produced lighthearted taboo episodes or series involving family roleplay, blackmail, adultery, power dynamics, and the like. Only in our David & Goliath story, we didn’t manage to slay the giant. Put simply, our idea just wasn’t different enough to stand out.

It was a humbling experience, to say the least, a reminder that even when you think you have it all figured out there’s always more to learn. Yet, from the ashes of disappointment, we gleaned invaluable insights. We learned the hard way that what works for one project may not necessarily work for another, and that we couldn’t take for granted that our past successes would guarantee us an easy-street future. It was time to roll up our sleeves and do some honest hard work to better understand the straight audience and how we could better appeal to their fantasies and desires, while doing it in a way that nobody else had already.

An Indirect Solution

The pivotal moment for Pretty Dirty’s eventual facelift came from an experimental concept I directed myself, titled “Indirect Relations.” As the credits rolled on that 55-minute episode, we knew we had struck gold. The grittier tone, the taboo on display being played not for irreverence but for shock-value, and especially the powerfully immersive acting from our dedicated cast (yes, Derrick Pierce really DID lick that razor and it was all his idea!)… these elements all felt like nothing we had seen anyone else doing in the industry, a promise of taking taboo seriously rather than rushing through it or watering it down. It was a revelation, a glimpse into the unbridled potential of a new direction for Pretty Dirty to take. And fans widely agreed – the episode stuck out for viewers in all the right (and so-wrong-it’s-right) reasons.

And thus, the seed was planted for Pure Taboo to soon blossom – a phoenix rising from the ashes of Pretty Dirty’s shortcomings. We ceased regular updates on Pretty Dirty, went back to the drawing board, and developed a new vision and pilot episodes to demonstrate how the brand would look and feel upon its rebirth. No facet of the old brand was sacrosanct – if it merited changing, we sure as hell changed it. The name; the logo; the film style; the way the episodes were packaged; heck, even the color grading got a facelift to match the bleak world we wanted to portray. But we also made sure to keep those things about Pretty Dirty that showed promise – the casting, the tabloid-esque sensationalism, and the eclectic variety of sex acts and story themes were still present in Pure Taboo’s dark reflection. We wanted the new offering to feel familiar enough to those loyal members we had attracted to the brand so far, while having much higher appeal for the wide world who was about to hear of it for the first time once we started spreading the news.

A Second Life On Adult Time

Even though Pretty Dirty hasn’t received any new updates since 2017, a lot of the content archive has withstood the test of time. The video quality is still crisp, the performances still explosive, the themes still relevant to today’s audiences. Only now, as part of a larger platform with thousands of other videos to peruse, it arguably has a better home than it ever did on its own. You see, when we first launched Pretty Dirty as a stand-alone site, it had big shoes to fill – too big, as it turned out. But now, the series finds itself alongside complementary content like Devil’s Film, Adam and Eve Pictures, Sweet Sinner, and more that make up a genre of “taboo-lite” porn with broad appeal and plenty of entertainment value. Suddenly the fact that it’s a bit too similar to other competitors isn’t as much of a setback anymore. Perhaps it’s even a strength. The content is easy to stumble onto for customers and easy for us to recommend thanks to being packed full of categories and trendy keywords, and it’s effortlessly digestible when you’re just looking to get your fix of popular pornstars doing the dirty deed. I can’t help but ask myself “what if”, idly wondering if Pretty Dirty might have fared better if it were released today, with all of the rest of Adult Time there to back it up. But certainly, in celebration of Pretty Dirty having paved the way for our eventual success in the straight market, we owe it a debt of gratitude even if it didn’t survive to tell the tale.

Click here to watch a full Pretty Dirty scene for free!

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