Brand of the day: Ashley Madison

Welcome to Brand of the Day, where we pick the brand making headlines and explain what you need to know about why it's in the news.

Dating website Ashley Madison is our brand of the day.

The controversial hook-up service, which encourages infidelity, has found itself in the spotlight following a data breach which could compromise the personal records of its 37 million users.

A group named the Impact Team has claimed responsibility for hacking the site and its two sister companies, Cougar Life and Established Men – all of which are owned by Avid Life Media.

Ashley Madison was founded in 2001 by former lawyer and sports agent Noel Biderman, under the strapline 'Life is short. Have an affair'.

Happily married himself, Biderman wanted the platform to be a "female-centered brand" and decided to generate all ads and marketing material in-house. "We spend as much time crafting messages as we do crafting the website," he told Inc. magazine in 2012.

This strategy has landed the brand in hot water on more than one occasion.

Earlier this year, the site had an ad pulled from Australian TV after a watchdog found the spot to be "demeaning and vilifying of women", and Durex's global brand executive, Ukonwa Ojo, said it would never work with platform because their values were "not aligned".

Its 2011 Super Bowl campaign was cut by Fox before it even made it on air, because it showed a woman involuntarily stripped to her underwear.

And it came under fire in the same year when it used a plus-size model in an ad which asked 'Does your wife scare you at night?'. The model, who identified herself as Jacqueline, wrote a letter to pop culture blog Jezebel saying the image had been used without her consent.

Even politicians are not immune to the Ashley Madison's marketing efforts. Newt Gingrich, Boris Johnson, Hilary Clinton and Kim Jong-Un have all featured on its billboards.

In 2013 the affairs service was forced to abandon launch plans to go public in Singapore, after it was met with strong opposition. This March the firm said it was planning to float on the London stock exchange because of Europe's more "relaxed attitude towards extramarital activities".

Today's hack could spell bad news for the site's currently anonymous users.

In a statement released earlier the owners said: “We apologize for this unprovoked and criminal intrusion into our customers’ information.”

"We have always had the confidentiality of our customers’ information foremost in our minds, and have had stringent security measures in place.”

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