Lovehoney Policy & Regulation Health & Pharma

Inside Lovehoney’s campaign to position itself within the healthcare category


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

April 30, 2024 | 5 min read

We catch up with the sexual wellness brand’s Nadia McCowan Hill as part of The Drum’s Health & Pharma Focus.

A lovehoney ad

One of Lovehoney's eye-catching billboards / Lovehoney

Lovehoney is still firmly on its mission to destigmatize sexual pleasure and bring it to the mainstream as part of healthcare. It hasn’t been an easy ride for the brand, however. Since its launch in 2002, it has had to continually adapt its marketing to keep in line with stringent rules, censorship and a rather prudish approach to sex.

There have been ASA bans, Ofcom complaints and rumors of shadow banning on social media, but this has allowed the brand to get creative with its advertising approach and ultimately be part of much bigger conversations.

When The Drum catches up with Nadia McCowan Hill, the Lovehoney public relations and content director, for our Health & Pharma Focus, she says: “We recognize that if people have a healthy sex life, they have wellness more broadly, so that’s a real positive for us and something that we’re trying to bring into the mainstream.”

But is the brand widely accepted in the mainstream? The marketer says it is tricky. Despite it being widely recognized that a healthy sex life improves sleep, blood pressure and stress levels, as well as having other benefits, Lovehoney still finds it difficult when it attempts to communicate its story.

A Lovehoney ad

“There’s a huge amount of censorship that’s applied to us within the sexual wellness space. It’s certainly quite challenging to navigate all the restrictions that we face on an ongoing basis.”

Over the past couple of years, the needle has moved ever so slightly, says McCowan Hill, but not enough to have a significant effect – for example, on social media, Lovehoney struggles to even get the word ‘sex’ into its ads at all. She also reveals that the brand has had its accounts flagged for featuring a spectrum of different bodies, showing normal things like stretchmarks.

McCowan Hill believes it is quite “arbitrary” and “problematic,” so much so that Lovehoney joined in a protest against Meta that was led by sex-positive influencers and sex workers in regard to Instagram bans. It was important for the brand to show solidarity.

A huge win for the brand came on Valentine’s Day when it was able to show one of its products live on This Morning, even if it received a lot of complaints. “I think it’s a distinctly British issue in many ways because there is that sort of element of prudishness around sex. It’s something that we all do; it’s the life force that drives humanity. We’re all here because of it, but it still has that shame and stigma.”

She clarifies that the brand always wants to be respectful and that it wants to normalize these conversations more than anything. Over the past few years, there has been a huge rise in wellness across social media channels and Lovehoney is partnering with different influencers to become part of those communities. The younger demographic is a key consumer segment for the brand.

Importantly, the brand has partnered with Macmillan this year on a campaign that hopes to shatter the stigma around sex and cancer. “It’s a topic that’s hugely shrouded, stigmatized and people that are suffering from cancer really have not got the resources that they need.

“When we looked at the data. 700,000 people are suffering in silence. The six-month campaign will really open up that conversation and we’ve worked on various storytelling videos.”

A cancer diagnosis can impact a person’s life and can touch every part of what makes someone who they are. For many people, sex and intimacy following a cancer diagnosis are a huge concern. The people participating in these shot films have candidly opened up about their own personal journeys in a brave way.

“There’s a young lady who got a cancer diagnosis at the age of 14 and basically had no information whatsoever on how it would affect her sex life as she reached maturity. We also had an older gentleman who had prostate cancer and he was talking about erectile dysfunction.”

For Lovehoney, it’s about bringing these health-related stories out into the open so that people aren’t going through things alone. In a first for the brand, it has seen an entirely positive response to the campaign.

“It goes to show that a brand like Lovehoney can 100% partner with something like Macmillan on a really meaningful collaboration and that we should be in those open spaces, essentially.”

Lovehoney Policy & Regulation Health & Pharma

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