B&T Weekly, 2004
As the adult lifestyle exhibition Sexpo gears up for another run at Sydney’s Royal Hall of Industries, its founder says the event’s success proves not only that “sex sells”, but that marketing works.
Following a 10% footfall increase in 2003 on the previous year’s Sydney event, Sexpo is this year running at the Horden Pavilion as well as the Royal Hall. The addition of a marquis between the two venues will increase the event’s capacity to 10,000 square metres, allowing it to accommodate an expected 60,000 visitors across four days.
This makes the Sydney show almost as large as its counterpart in Melbourne, where Sexpo launched in 1996, and now takes place across 11,500 square metres at the Melbourne Exhibition and Conference Centre.
The event also takes place in Brisbane and will launch next year at the new Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, but was discontinued at the Adelaide Convention and Exhibition Centre. It recently signed up a US sponsor, California Exotic Novelties, in a three year naming-rights agreement covering Sydney and Brisbane.
Regardless of its reception in South Australia, Sexpo has come a long way from its beginning as a public relations vehicle for Club X books and this development can be explained in one word: women.
Women make up 40% of Sexpo’s audience—400,000 visitors so far. Morgan Research exit polls found 80% of women had never visited an adult store before.
Organiser David Ross said women were fundamental to the exhibition’s marketing strategy from the start because they were a more attractive customer base than men.
“Men buy more DVDs and videos, but when it comes to hard product, women are the greatest buyers,” he said.
“Women who say they don’t have a vibrator are lying—it’s like men claiming they’ve never masturbated.”
This female focus has meant Ross has had to think hard about marketing, as attracting men to sex-themed events is a no-brainer. Slap up a sign advertising DVDs and dancers and men will flood in, he said. The ambition to attract women by creating a more sophisticated atmosphere than “the dark and dingy places”normally associated with erotica, has seen the fair develop into a broader adult lifestyle event.
As well as the predictable devices for sale and celebrity porn stars in attendance, Sexpo has stands covering everything from gym and spa membership to natural therapies and wines. There’s a crèche for children, a “Ladies’ Day” promotion and a sexual health education exhibition. Ross has also limited the number of vendors.
“Every man and his dog were buying a stand, throwing some vibrators on the floor and turning it into a Paddy’s Market situation,” he said.
The more sophisticated positioning of the event extends to the advertising, which will include print, radio, outdoor and prime-time TV. The spend is $250,000, a sizeable chunk of the $1m Ross said it cost to put on the show.
Ross handles all advertising himself. He said the agencies that have approached him have unanimously misunderstood the event’s female focus.