Massage advertising
September 26, 2019 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Why would apparently legitimate massage businesses have ads on sites associated with escort services?

I've noticed a massage business that has listings on a sites associated with sex work (e.g., city x guide) but the ad copy seems very vanilla, especially compared to the other ads. AFAIK these are paid listings ... why pay for an ad about deep tissue massage to go up next to an ad about young hot girls who do out calls?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So you can boost your revenue stream by providing services that a customer's health insurance will reimburse?
posted by blerghamot at 7:26 AM on September 26, 2019

Because Googling for "massage" will often bring up escort sites as the first hits, so might as well put an ad on them? Or, maybe the sketchy sites get legit massage businesses to advertise in order to give the escort site some legitimacy?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:40 AM on September 26, 2019

I had a similar question, although from a reverse angle, maybe fifteen years ago looking at print ads in the Village Voice -- they had two sections, one for "Body Work" and one for "Adult Body Work". And very clearly the intent was for non-sexual massage/acupuncture/reflexology/whatever to be in the first section, and things that were some kind of ambiguous sex work to be in the second section. But if you looked at the ads, the ones in the plain "Body Work" section were just about as likely to be heavily implying sex work as the ones in the "Adult Body Work" section.

I was completely mystified by this, and never had anyone explain it to me satisfactorily.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:49 AM on September 26, 2019

Some people probably do not want to have their first contact with a massage place to be with the implied expectation of sex work, and want to see if the place feels legitimate, deniable, and if they have a good feeling about it in terms of cleanliness and vibe. They go, get a regular massage, and if they like it, they'll go back for a second one and inquire about other services in person. There's a plausible deniability thing in play.
posted by juniperesque at 8:32 AM on September 26, 2019

There's a plausible deniability thing in play.

This is my guess too. It is quite likely that the business provides both vanilla and illegal services. There was recently a big FBI sting in my area that put several businesses of that sort down for human trafficking - they did in fact provide regular massages, but that wasn't all. My bet is that they are advertising exactly how they want to.
posted by epanalepsis at 8:35 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are you sure that the legitimate business is advertising directly? As opposed to being part of a network. Using Metafilter as an example, the businesses whose ads you see here don’t reach out directly to cortex to place ads. They go through Carbon and Metafilter also contracts withCarbon. There’s often a middleman, and many middlemen are automated so that there’s no actual person deciding that a particular ad should be shown on a particular page.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:34 AM on September 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yes, my inclination is to expect that they're just getting some bottom tier of targeted ads dumped on them through a network.
posted by praemunire at 10:47 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Polaris Project's Report on Human Trafficking in Illicit Massage Businesses notes that there is a business model that caters toward "risk-averse commercial sex buyers", stating:

Illicit massage businesses are designed specifically to provide the comfort of a built-in cover story for buyers — that they just “wanted a massage” and had no idea that this business offered any other services. This creates a psychological comfort zone as well as a very real one.
My inclination that these ads are for businesses who follow this model, and that the location of the advertisement is meant to be a signal that it's not just a massage.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 11:47 AM on September 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Looking at it from the other side, if these are in fact non-sexual businesses, maybe they feel that running ads in those publications will bring in customers who are hoping for something more.
posted by megatherium at 3:15 PM on September 26, 2019

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