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Recon launch ad campaign on phoneboxes: ‘Fetish is a normal part of gay lifestyle’

Following the controversy prompted by Squirt’s recent outdoor campaign, fetish hook-up app Recon has launched its first outdoor series of adverts

Recon launch ad campaign on phoneboxes: ‘Fetish is a normal part of gay lifestyle’
One of the Recon adverts in central London

Gay dating app Recon has launched its first ever out of house (OOH) campaign. An OOH campaign is one that consumers see when they’re away when they’re outside their home (i.e. in a public space).

The campaign consists of images of guys in leather, rubber and other fetish gear and features on phoneboxes in 11 central London sites.

Recon was launched as a website 16 years ago, followed later by the launch of its app. In a statement to Gay Star Business, a spokesperson said it had approximately 175,000 active monthly users. It focuses on hooking up gay and bisexual men who have an interest in fetish wear.

A Recon phone box advert

A Recon phone box advert

Sandy Pianim, Marketing Manager for the UK-based Recon, said, ‘Our brand has always struggled to build awareness in the normal media outlets due to the content.

‘In the last year we’ve been around the world engaging with our members and other men into fetish. We’ve been lucky enough to photograph guys in LA, Chicago, Berlin, Rio, San Francisco and London which make up the basis of our new batch of images for promotions.

‘In a way the images are normalizing fetish. Fetish is a normal part of gay lifestyle and that’s why I wanted to bring it into OOH.’

The brand is inviting people to take a photo of themselves, wearing fetish gear, standing next to one of the adverts, and to post it on social media for a chance to win a limited period of premium membership.

The campaign follows a similar one launched by hook-up app Squirt, which has featured on phone booths, bus shelters and public transport. The Squirt campaign has prompted controversy and complaints. Promoting ‘Non-stop hook-ups’ and ‘Non-stop cruising’, and featuring topless male models, the adverts have been removed from bus shelters in Miami and subway trains in Toronto.

Squirt's ads, showing three men embracing each other, were pulled from Toronto's public transport.

Squirt’s ads, showing three men embracing each other, were pulled from Toronto’s public transport.

Complaints against the Squirt adverts were also lodged in the Netherlands, but in a recent ruling, the country’s Advertising Standards Board ruled them as acceptable. The adverts appear at major railway stations in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht.

Pianim told Gay Star Business that Recon had thought carefully about what imagery to use to avoid causing offence.

‘We worked closely with ClearChannel to understand what we could and could not put in our ad. At the end of the day we just want to promote our brand with striking and stimulating imagery. There are ways and means to put across your brand without offending anyone.’

He went on to say that Recon had been wanting to do outdoor advertising for a while but had been repeatedly turned down by agencies that owned display space. He acknowledged that the Squirt campaign had helped him to re-open conversations.

‘We’ve wanted to do OOH for a couple of years now. It’s proven difficult to even talk to media outlets as they are instantly put off as soon as you mention ‘fetish’. It’s a little crazy… I was literally saying to people I want to give you money and work out how I can promote my brand and they always turned us away.

‘The Squirt ads definitely enabled me to go back and open the conversation about Recon advertising again.’

He said that subject to how the London campaign is received, the brand was considering expanding it to another site.

Ian Johnson, of LGBTI marketing agency Out Now Consulting, suggested that there may be more than one motive to placing the adverts in public spaces.

‘I think there are two tactics in play for such advertisers,’ he said. ‘Exposure and publicity. They may seek to garner some free publicity for their brand by hoping for a controversy.

‘Some of their users can be expected to be closeted men and there is some justification that placing these advertisements into general media space makes sense as one way for the products to become known to a non-gay identifying group of target customers.

‘There is of course a risk that some closeted men might be pushed further into the closet and deterred from visiting the sites if the domain names of the sites become part of any general media controversy.

‘But of course, that will not deter the many out gay men who may become aware of such sites as a result of this advertising – and any resulting publicity that might ensue following its placement.’

What do you think of the Squirt and Recon adverts? Leave your comments below.

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