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Saatchis to pimp .xxx domains

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Renowned advertising agency M&C Saatchi is to take on the porn business, after agreeing to represent the proposed .xxx domain name operator, ICM Registry.

The company is expected to launch a two-phase campaign, the first designed to help sell the purported benefits of the domain to a recalcitrant porn industry, the second to flog the names to punters after the registry launches.

M&C Saatchi was founded by Saatchi brothers Maurice and Charles, who first found fame with their "Labour Isn't Working" campaign, credited with helping Margaret Thatcher into office in 1979.

The .xxx domain has not yet been, and may never be, approved. It's currently going through an ICANN process that is likely to lead to its delegation early next year, but is subject to a vociferous campaign for its rejection led by US porn trade group the Free Speech Coalition.

The FSC believes the domain is little more that a cash grab, unwanted by the majority of porn sites, that creates a real risk of government censorship. Saatchi will be initially tasked with attempting to make these pornographers less hostile.

Saatchi's .xxx campaigns are not expected to be particularly salacious. ICM is positioning the domain as a place for "responsible" pornographers, who agree to abide by certain rules on content and security.

The Register has learned that ICM is also planning to sweeten its proposition to the porn business by creating about a dozen free-to-list porn directory sites on "super-premium" domain names.

Rather than auction off, for example, porn.xxx or sex.xxx to the highest bidder, the company instead plans to create directory sites there and allow any .xxx web site operator to freely list their URL.

We understand that these directories will not take advertising, will only accept listings from developed sites, and that listed sites will be displayed in random rotation.

The hope is that many .xxx registrants will be able to recoup the costs of their pricey registration fee, expected to be well over $60 a year, through traffic sent to them by these premium directory sites.

ICM has taken roughly 180,000 pre-registrations over the last few years. The FSC believes many of these are defensive registrations made by pornographers who would prefer .xxx is never approved, which ICM disputes.

ICANN is currently soliciting public comments on ICM's proposed registry contracts. The deadline for comments to be submitted is today. ®

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