Just how does one market Ashley Madison, a "dating" website built in 2001 to arrange extramarital affairs? South Carolina voters received a taste of the site's enticing new strategy on Tuesday morning when two large billboards advertising Ashley Madison went up in Columbia, South Carolina. "NEXT TIME USE ... ASHLEYMADISON.COM TO FIND YOUR RUNNING MATE," the enormous advertisement reads, next to pictures of South Carolina Congressional candidate and serial philanderer Mark Sanford ... and a woman with a finger on her lips.
The timing is sound: just last night, Sanford's Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, highlighted allegations that Sanford had spent government money on trips to the Appalachian Trail, where he admitted to meeting his mistress — and current fiancé! (This is "a love story," folks.) But otherwise the billboard seems a bit puzzling. Why attach your service to a figure who repeatedly lied, ripped apart his own family, and devastated his own political career?
To understand the site's strategy, we spoke with the Ashley Madison's CEO, a forty-something named Noel Biderman. Speaking by phone, he explained that the site has staged similar marketing campaigns before, and in other countries. (Prior advertising campaigns targeted campaign sex-scandal staples like former President Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, London Mayor Boris Johnson, Prince Charles, and the King of Spain.)