Tinder Treads New Ground With Ads

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Tinder is looking to make a new kind of match: the kind between advertisers and consumers.

Since Tinder's launch in 2012, it has remained a largely ad-free space. Users had plenty to love about that approach, but the model was less successful for a company in need of revenue. To fix the earnings issue, Tinder is joining the trend of dating services offering purchasable ad space.

It's an expected move for Tinder, but a big one nonetheless, and it's uncertain how users will respond. On one hand, an ad-free user experience is preferable because it is seamless and free of annoyance.

On the other hand, users are hardly ignorant to the business side of the services they use. Most understand that a company like Tinder needs money in order to continue, and that selling ad space is an effective way to generate revenue. If advertising allows the app to remain free to download, it’s a reasonable concession for a customer to make.

The question becomes “How will Tinder introduce advertisements in order to minimize backlash?” The app's interface is not conducive to unobtrusive advertising. Facebook Newsfeed ads are easy to scroll past and therefore minimally disruptive, but Tinder doesn't have that option.

An advertisement slipped directly into a user's personal profile would compromise their ability to present themselves accurately on the app. Instead, Tinder will have to create ads that mimic profiles – they'll take up the entire screen, and users will swipe into and out of them. The challenge for brands will be to take advantage of this, by creating thematically relevant advertising content.

Another eye-catching strategy means using video (again with thematic relevance to users). Video could be considered unnecessarily disruptive, so brands will have to tread carefully. Knowing both their own demographic and Tinder's demographic – and making sure they align – will be key. Video ads are a riskier move for Tinder as well, as users may find them too irritating.

How users respond to these kinds of ads remains to be seen, but the experiment is an intriguing one. It’s clear that both Tinder and the advertisers are venturing into largely unexplored territory. OkCupid has seen brands successfully create thematically relevant ad content on its site, while companies like Match and Meet Me have had ads included in their applications for years, but it is still a relatively new practice.

Tinder's audience of tech-savvy millennials may also present a unique set of challenges. It will be interesting to see which strategies prove most effective for that highly sought after market.