Are Dating Apps the Next Big Thing in Marketing?


Dating apps are growing in popularity among older Millennials, who are generally single, employed, and attractive to brands. Is Tinder’s first video ad a sign of what’s to come?

The latest platform to monetize its data, Tinder recently launched its first video ad. Could dating apps’ demographics – largely older, employed Millennials whose presence on them alludes to the discretionary income of single people – make them the next marketing hot spot?

Bud Light launched Tinder’s inaugural video ad earlier this month. Swiping right on the beer brand gave users the chance to enter a contest for a trip to a huge party in “Whatever, USA” that the brand will be throwing as part of its #UpForWhatever campaign.

“With Tinder, we had the opportunity to reach a highly attractive young audience that’s very engaged,” says Hugh Cullman, brand director for Bud Light. “Tinder obviously has your age data and we were able to find the 21- to 27-year-olds who are our sweet spot, who are obviously young but also above the drinking age.”

“People aren’t used to seeing ads, so there won’t be the same level of ad blindness, so that was really exciting for us,” he adds. “Bud Light has always been about connecting people, so there’s a natural synergy [with Tinder].”

Because Tinder matches invariably lead to, “Want to grab a drink?” Bud Light made sense for the platform. While brands may find dating apps attractive, it’s important for the platforms to be selective and choose to work with complementary brands, according to Blake Jamieson, director of content marketing at PoolSupplyWorld in Phoenix.

Jamieson also runs a website called TinderHacks, following an experiment where he upped his matches by Photoshopping things like “Match of the Day” onto his pictures, as if he was endorsed by Tinder.

“I would so much rather see native ads and maybe I have a selection bias because I work in advertising, butEx Machina is a testament to that,” he says, referring to the movie’s controversial stunt during SXSW. “People were talking about it because it’s controversial. In the movie, she’s a robot so that’s like quintessential native marketing and I respect that a ton.”

For Tom Hyde, social strategy director at Droga5, that’s a potentially dangerous move for brands. He believes that when ads incorporate video or animation, they’re not native advertising, as much as a different ad product altogether. True native advertising on a dating app can make people feel like they’ve been played by the brand, he says.

“Winning a holiday with a bunch of single people and free booze is pretty cool,” Hyde says, referring to Bud Light’s video ad. “But realizing that the hot girl you’ve been chatting with is an AI bot promoting a film, I don’t know what the payout is for that.”

Hyde thinks advertising on Tinder can be done in a positive way – for example, New York City animal rescue shelter Social Tees made more than 1,500 matches in 24 hours, matching its dogs with Tinder users. The difference, he says, is that Social Tees didn’t post pictures of good-looking people holding puppies, tricking users into thinking they’d matched with the human.

“Similar to April Fool’s jokes that brands pull, if most people’s first experience with a brand or a campaign is feeling duped or slightly manipulated, that has its obvious pitfalls,” Hyde says.

The founder of JSwipe, which is often called the “Jewish Tinder,” David Yarus isn’t opposed to advertising on his platform, though he has yet to do so. Strongly believing that Millennials – a JSwipe’s user’s average age is 26 – prefer to spend money on experiences rather than things, Yarus says that advertisers related to dating activities would be most appealing to him. At the same time he does believe that Bud Light fit in with Tinder more naturally than, say, Nike.

“[People who match] all want to get a drink somewhere, so [Bud Light] was a safe brand for [Tinder] to use,” he says. “Tinder should be hypercritical with how they come into the market with ads because while they’re overcoming the taboo that they sort of stumbled into early on, they also want to preserve the cool or the cultural currency that they’ve also been able to muster up with such success.”

Though advertising is still a novelty on Tinder, it hasn’t affected the platform’s membership too much, asĀ 1 million new users continue to sign up weekly. Earlier this week, the platform also integrated with Instagram, allowing users to sync their accounts and see potential matches’ recent photos.