Vibrator brand takes banned buzz activity to the streets

Hot Octopuss constructed a campaign focused on dismantling sexual stigma and raising awareness of its DiGiT gender neutral sex toy.

Banned sex toy campaign found a home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Photo credit: Cowan Whitfield
Banned sex toy campaign found a home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Photo credit: Cowan Whitfield

NEW YORK: Media buyers rejected Hot Octopuss’ creative for its DiGiT sex toy activation, so the vibrator company moved the conversation to the streets of New York City.

Hot Octopuss and PR agency Manifest installed posters on the wall of a building in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, depicting six nearly naked women activists raising a middle finger to stigma. The brand hired the six ambassadors in a casting process that involved hundreds of women.

The campaign, #ShowStigmaTheFinger, aims to end the stigma these activists faced in the past, such as racism, colorism and transphobia, preventing them from achieving "sexual fulfillment," according to a statement from Manifest.

"It’s time society accepted trans people as sexual beings," declared one of the ambassadors, Victoria, on a Hot Octopuss microsite. "A happy and healthy sex life is something every woman deserves, no matter their culture, gender identity or racial background."

However, after being banned from out-of-home and subway ad locations, the conversation has taken on new meaning in its tackling of the taboo subject of masturbation, said Julia Margo, co-founder and COO of Hot Octopuss.

"We as a society are terrified of talking about masturbating," Margo said. "It’s so embarrassing; it’s humiliating. We don’t really like talking about sex publicly except in a joking way. That’s kind of where we are and it’s ridiculous."

Margo said the brand could have obtained approval to show the ad if it toned down its explicit content but, ultimately, it declined to do so.

"We needed to find a way to get it into the world," Margo added.

Following the rejections, the campaign pivoted its messaging to focus on why masturbation is such a forbidden topic. Located at First Park off Houston Street, the space was provided by a local street artist.

Manifest managing partner Jessica Becker said the agency handled the entire execution of the campaign from ideation to media relations. It also wrote and launched a microsite, and shot video content.

"The campaign creative was originally rejected by numerous ad authorities," said Becker. "However, we managed to work with local New York street artists who granted us permission to put the campaign live on their wall in the LES and online."

Hot Octopuss Show Stigma The Finger 1 from Manifest on Vimeo.

The poster art was handled by London-based artist Aleksandra Karpowicz, whose work is regularly censored for depicting nudity.

There is also a product tie-in, promoting DiGiT, a gender neutral finger sex toy made by Hot Octopuss. Ten percent of profits from sales through the microsite will go to nonprofits chosen by its six ambassadors, including Little People of America, SAGE, Race Forward, Human Rights Campaign, Project HEAL and National Center for Transgender Equality.

Manifest won the 2018 PRWeek U.S. Best Consumer Launch Award for its work on behalf of Hot Octopuss. In that campaign, Bring Your O Game, the brand launched the first-ever orgasm pop-up shop.

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