‘Extra-Marital Dating Site’ Ashley Madison Loves Bad Publicity

When your business is a dating site with the tagline “Life is short. Have an affair“, you’re probably not too concerned with bad PR. In fact, you might just be the rare brand that thrives on the public’s hate–a brand like Ashley Madison, the world’s “premiere website for discreet connections” between people who are already married. Hmm…

We thought we’d take a brief moment to highlight a PR stunt completely in keeping with Ashley Madison’s brand ethos. In order to promote its services, the company took out a full-page ad in the Super Bowl insert section of today’s San Francisco Examiner. Here’s the visual:

Predictable “outrage” ensued–and Ashley Madison’s PR firm Bridge and Tunnel Communications capitalized on said outrage to promote its client via naive media outlets like yours truly. They even called the ad “X-rated” in press releases.

We certainly wouldn’t label this a classy move, but it is a solid PR strategy. Why?

Well, here’s a fascinating Inc. magazine interview with company founder/CEO Noel Biderman, who talks about creating “a credible, confidential avenue for people who want to have an affair” and insists that he aimed to help his venture stand out by making it a “female-centered brand” that specialized in empowering career women to “[behave] like men”…by turning their clueless spouses into classic cuckolds. We don’t really see how that concept squares with the ad above, but we do understand his strategy.

Here’s one of the company’s “banned” Super Bowl ads featuring a woman who obviously wants to go outside her marriage, complete with the tagline “When divorce isn’t an option.”

Question for PR pros: How would you handle a controversial client like Ashley Madison?