OkCupid CMO Says Its ‘DTF’ Campaign Boosted Buzz 50%, But Isn’t Welcome Everywhere

The ads drew praise from women, rejection from Chicago Transit

The campaign, largely driven by out-of-home, resulted in a 50% boost in social mentions of OkCupid. OkCupid
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In the crowded category of dating apps, OkCupid has rarely been one of the most high-profile options, but its recent “DTF” campaign seems to be working at changing that.

Created by Wieden + Kennedy New York under the brand’s first CMO, Melissa Hobley, the ads recast DTF—typically meant as a derogatory term for women who are “down to fuck”—into new interpretations that represent what single people might really be looking for in a relationship. Perhaps you’re “Down to Farmer’s Market” or “Down to Feel Fabulous.” Or maybe you’re just “Down to Forget Our Baggage.”

“The insight driving this campaign was that this phrase, DTF, is one that is typically used as a label on young women, one that they have no say or no voice in,” Hobley tells Adweek. “Certainly this campaign was birthed in the era of ‘Me Too’ and in a year that’s really important for women.”

The campaign has boosted social mentions of OkCupid by 50 percent, according to the brand. And more importantly to Hobley, the ads have resonated with young women and members of the LGBTQ community, as illustrated by this Instagram post from the New York Subway:

But not all the ads have been welcome everywhere, and in fact the entire campaign was rejected outright by the Chicago Transit Authority.

Because the work is largely meant to run in outdoor and out-of-home, such as in public transit, the campaign has faced a litany of reviews and occasional rejections.

New York City’s Subway rejected the ads featuring headlines “Filter out the Far Right,” “Four Twenty,” and “Football vs. fùtbol”. These ads were also turned down for a few other media placements in New York, including in Brooklyn, where hand-painted wallscapes of “Fight About the President” and “Fantasize about 2020” were also rejected.

The brand faced similar denials in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, with ad placement locales in both cities saying no to some of the ads that referenced politics, drugs and sexual metaphors (the “football vs. fùtbol” ad forms a phallic shape from a football and soccer balls).

Melissa Hobley, OkCupid CMO

“We certainly knew we would not be able to run every execution in every market. What surprised us was that certain huge vendors, outlets and agencies rejected the campaign completely,” Hobley says. “We ran this campaign in a number of cities in Q1 of 2018, and the response was phenomenal. We saw the needle move, we saw people talking about it—young women especially.”

The brand isn’t always told why certain ads are rejected. For example, the “Filter Out the Far Right” ad might be turned down for placement because it shows a handgun, or it might be seen as too politically incendiary. Similarly, when locations or networks turn down the entire campaign, Hobley says the OkCupid team is often perplexed by the decision.

“The point of ‘DTF’ is de-sexualizing it,” she says. “So we found it ironic that ‘Down to Farmer’s Market’ was not allowed to run.”

The recurring theme of politics in the campaign is no coincidence. Political issues have rapidly become core aspects of the conversations around (and during) dating, as reflected in the fact OkCupid has seen a 64 percent increase in political terms being used in dating profiles over the past year.

Last fall, OkCupid began offering badges on profiles, and the use of political expression with this feature has had an impact on user connections. You’re 15 percent more likely to get a “like” in the app if you use the ACLU badge, according to OkCupid data, and users who shared the #IStandWithPP badge supporting Planned Parenthood were four times more likely to match.

“What’s unprecedented is the role politics plays in dating, and we’re not shying away from that conversation,” Hobley says. “It’s awesome that people are using politics and the causes and issues they care about to determine who they want to go out on a date with.”

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."