DTFlip the narrative: How we fell back in love with OkCupid

The dating app is launching its second installment of the highly successful DTF campaign with Wieden+Kennedy.

Melissa Hobley gets way more wedding invites than your most popular friend.

But that’s hardly a surprise considering her role as OkCupid’s first chief marketing officer and global matchmaker supreme.

The dating service, which was born in 2004 and at the time widely thought of as the world’s premier free coupling app, had zero marketing team before Hobley’s arrival around a year ago -- and boy did it land back on the map with a bang (no pun).  

"‘‘DTF’ [down to fuck] is a derogatory label that, historically, men used to talk to other men about women," said Hobley. "Women weren’t part of the label and we wanted to flip that."

OkCupid was in dire need of something special after laying dangerously dormant for so many years while the market flooded with newer, sexier dating app models like Tinder and Bumble (and now, apparently, elitist champion The League).  

DTF was its answer.

The brand’s first campaign launched with "world class" creative partner Wieden+Kennedy in a couple of U.S. cities around 12 months ago. It was an instant hit. With a simple-yet-punchy play on words, the brand took control of the phrase and gave it countless new meanings, like "DTFall Head Over Heels" which included the now infamous picture of two women embracing.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. The campaign launched as chatter around the intersection of politics and culture reached boiling point and movements like MeToo began to really gain momentum.

"We were blown away by the response," said Hobley.

The 2018 campaign boosted social mentions of OkCupid by 50 percent and resonated with young women and members of the LGBTQ community. Now the brand hopes to capitalize on the success with a triumphant return.

A new installment, developed by Wieden+Kennedy as well as artist and author duo Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, has been rolling out across Washington D.C. and San Francisco this month with geo-targeted phrases like "DTFree Speech" (after the D.C. Metro rejected "DTFix the House" and "DTFight about the President"), "DTFinish a Mission Burrito" and "DTFisherman’s Wharf."

In February, the campaign will return to New York City. Words deemed inappropriate by the MTA subway system will be displayed loud and proud elsewhere in Manhattan with a nod to the ban.  

"One of the things we’re seeing is people being upfront," said Hobley when asked what people want from online dating today.

"The age of ‘don’t say you're religious, don’t say you’re divorced, don’t say you have kids’ is all gone. What we’re seeing now -- as much from the guys as well as the women -- is people being more confident with telling the world what they want, whether that’s ‘I’m looking for something serious’ or ‘I’m really into politics and debate is hot.'"

OkCupid’s ability to strike such a cord with its audience is partly down to the campaign data it inadvertently reaps from users. Members must answer at least 15 questions (but can answer as many as 3,000) when joining to define what they want from their dating life.

Some of the questions are as black and white as, "do you believe in a border wall?" and "would you date someone who didn’t believe in the MeToo movement?" Not surprisingly, one of the most answered questions is simply, "Trump?"

The responses have curved out what issues are most important for different parts of the country.

Hobley added: "We have a very unique opportunity to shape culture and we will make OkCupid the most culturally relevant brand in our category. We are able to do this so powerfully because we ask questions we know what’s on your radar."

The CMO and her team hope to continue to harness member data and the creative power of partners to lead the cultural charge into this year and beyond.

In the meantime, Hobley’s got some serious RSVPing to address.

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