Did Pornhub Actually Plow Snow in Boston?

It was a genius marketing stunt that went viral. Was it a hoax?
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We got this picture on Monday, so it was taken way before Tuesday’s storm. Photo via Pornhub.

Pornhub sent the internet into hysterics this month when it announced a creative, risqué new ad campaign: During the winter storm two weeks ago, the adult movie site told Boston, a fleet of two-dozen Pornhub-branded trucks would prowl the streets of Boston and New Jersey, offering to clear snow out of parking lots for any small businesses that wanted “to get plowed.”

The story blew up. As the storm made its way through the region, it seemed like everyone was talking about, and on the lookout for, plow trucks sporting the porn website’s logo. The story was shared and covered around the world. Posts emerged thanking Pornhub for doing a public service and celebrating the “power of private charity.” It was a publicist’s dream.

But here’s the thing: There is almost no evidence that it actually happened.

We’ve been searching for definitive proof that dozens of Pornhub trucks actually plowed streets and parking lots in Boston and elsewhere, and have still got next to nothing.

We told Pornhub about our suspicions, but they’re sticking to their story. They hired more than 24 contractors total in Boston and New Jersey, they say (the Jersey truck drivers also plowed in New York), and those plow drivers spent all day driving around their respective areas and removing snow for free. “We did indeed plow the Bostonians we were able to make it to,” says spokesman Chris Jackson.

And yet…

There are no pictures of the plows in action

Pornhub says a fleet of porn ads on wheels were out on the road—during a snow emergency, when streets were practically devoid of traffic—but somehow no one took a photo of one. The only pictures or videos of the vehicles to surface this week have come from people who work for Pornhub.

Most of the pictures that have been provided to Boston are of the same truck. When we asked for images of Pornhub plows in Boston taken during the March 14 storm, they sent us a few snapshots of a blue truck with a yellow plow, the exact same one featured in photos in front of Boston’s iconic Citgo sign and the Converse headquarters. There were also a few photos in which two pickups with Pornhub logos on them can be seen plowing snow in a snowstorm (including the one at the top of this post), but those were taken before, not during Boston’s storm, and were included in a bundle of photos sent to us prior to the snowfall.

(Almost) no one appears to have even seen one

As far as we can tell (and trust us, we’ve looked everywhere) not one person has reported setting their eyes upon a Pornhub-branded truck. No one took to social media to let their friends know Pornhub had responded to their request and cleared their snow, or posted about spotting one somewhere in Boston. Which is weird, given the amount of attention this story got, and how enthusiastically it was embraced online.

We also contacted the Boston Police Department, which had cruisers circling the city throughout the storm, while most of us were cooped up inside. Did they see anything? “We have no information to confirm their role in any snow removal efforts in the City of Boston,” says spokesman James Kenneally.

That isn’t how these things work

Remember when Uber promised to deliver bagpipers on demand around Boston? They really did it. We know because the evidence is overwhelming. How do you know where Keytar Bear is at any given moment? Twitter. When it comes to Pornhub’s plows, the silence is deafening.

No small businesses have confirmed it

We asked for Pornhub to connect us with even one Boston small business owner who made use of the service, so we could interview them, but were told that wouldn’t be possible. “Since our trucks were out all day, we were unable to keep track of individual businesses and lots,” Pornhub Vice President Corey Price told us through Jackson, the spokesman.

Later, though, we were told Pornhub did contact businesses for us, but those businesses didn’t want to go public—or even talk off the record—due to the stigma attached to porn. Which, apparently, did not stop them from emailing a porn website in the first place asking to “get plowed.”

Same goes for the plow drivers

Pornhub says they also contacted the plow drivers on our behalf. They wouldn’t talk to us either, even if we promised to shield their identities. “While we don’t agree with their sensitivity in being named as a partner (our goal is to make the consumption of pornography less taboo and more mainstream—basically combating this very issue), we do respect their wishes in not being publicly-named,” says Alex Klein, Pornhub’s vice president of marketing, in an email.

We contacted the Massachusetts Snow and Ice Contractors Association, which represents plow drivers with municipal contracts, just to see if they knew of anyone who had been asked to work for Pornhub during the storm, or if any of their drivers happened to cross paths with a Pornhub plow while they were on the road. They didn’t, and no. The group’s vice president, Brad Ness, suggested maybe Pornhub hired “driveway jockeys,” private drivers who pick up contracts on the side, in which case it’s possible the association wouldn’t hear about it.

An exception: this guy

There is one exception. After numerous emails and phone calls requesting an interview with someone who had received a plowing service by a Pornhub truck, company spokesman Chris Jackson arranged for a witness to call us.

In a brief interview, a man who lives in a housing complex in Middlesex County, New Jersey (he did not want to be identified) described how it went down: He says he sent an email to phubplows@gmail.com, an address Pornhub created to field plowing requests, the company responded within a few hours, the plow showed up, and he was satisfied with the service. “I emailed them as a joke, but within 2-3 hours they came and plowed my development,” he says, adding that his wife “thought it was pretty funny.”

We asked if he took a picture of the plow. He didn’t, he says. We asked him to send us his emails with Pornhub, so we could see them for ourselves. He declined. We said he could even just text us a picture of the emails, if he wanted, and cover up his email address. Nope.

Side note: Who is “Chris Jackson?”

The spokesman who told us about the Pornhub plow stunt identified himself as “Chris Jackson” on the phone and in emails, in a faceless Twitter account, and in news articles about Pornhub. He also happens to have the same phone number and voice as a rep from a PR firm in New York, who goes by a different name (which we won’t share here). When we confronted him about that, he stopped responding to our emails. We’ve asked Pornhub several times to clear this up. They haven’t.

Maybe it’s just business

Campaigns like this are part of the business model for Pornhub, a massive company in a highly competitive industry. Due to the subject matter, as this piece in The Verge explains, porn sites tend not to get much coverage on the content of their products and services. Instead, they seek attention in unusual, headline-grabbing ways, then often move on to the next big thing:

These days, sites like Pornhub make splashy announcements about shooting porn in space or plowing streets overrun with snow, only to largely abandon these efforts as soon as the earned media value has run out. For many people — especially beleaguered members of the press exhausted by press releases announcing things like Pornhub-branded lube, Pornhub promoting the cause of pet sterilization awareness, and a service nobody wants that involves texting emoji to receive porn — porn promotion doesn’t do much to challenge the adult industry’s reputation as a seedy business with a primary focus on immediate gratification.

In this case, Pornhub created an ad seen around the world, which one can only assume was worth a lot of money, based on a promise they made to Boston. The evidence is lacking that they kept it.

Note: If you live in Boston, New York, or New Jersey, and saw a Pornhub branded truck plowing snow during the March 14 winter storm, or if you’re a Boston small business owner who requested a Pornhub plow truck and it actually came, please let us know!