How OkCupid’s Provocative ‘DTF’ Local-Focused Ad Campaign Lifted Its Social Media Presence By 50 Percent

"We've been running the DTF campaign in a handful of cities, but the messaging is always tweaked and targeted to reflect local sensibilities," says CMO Melissa Hobley.

As one of the early online dating sites, 14-year-old OkCupid has worked to make sure its message and attitude don’t become — pardon the pun — “dated.”

Earlier this year, OkCupid began running its “DTF” campaign, primarily in urban areas populated by Millennials in cities such as New York, Austin, and Portland, Ore.

While DTF otherwise stands for a crude term directed toward women who happen to be sexually active, OkCupid CMO Melissa Hobley told an audience at XO Group’s XOFoundHERS speaker series that the brand sought to redefine the term to “mean whatever the ‘F’ you want.” Examples include “Down To Fire up the kiln,” “Down To Fight about the President,” and “Down To Fall head of over heels.”

Over the past few months, the out-of-home campaign, created by Wieden + Kennedy NY, has generated 50 percent more social media chatter, which in turn, has boosted signups (though the company won’t say how much specifically), and allowed the brand to compete with native-app upstarts like Tinder.

More recently, OkCupid has partnered with Yelp on the Daters’ Choice Awards, which involves users’ selecting the best spots to meet in eight cities as well as noting the kind of locations they like to connect at (e.g.,  OkCupid users go on 50k coffee and drink dates every week).

Chief Marketing Officer for XO Group CMO Dhanusha Sivajee interviews OkCupid CMO Melissa Hobley

GeoMarketing: How have you been evaluating the success of the out-of-home DTF campaign?

Melissa Hobley: There are a lot of KPIs for us. One of the most important is social chatter. We saw a 50 percent lift in discussion of OkCupid, which is really big for us. We had it on Q1 in New York and in a few cities at first. It proved so popular, we turned it back on for roughly 12 more weeks. After seeing the momentum, we decided to continue it through late June, July, in other cities. It’ll be on a few months.

Are the DTF ads generally the same across the country?

We tailored it in a few markets. We try to tweak it and target it for local areas. But mostly, you’ll see some of the same stuff. For example,  “Down To Fall head over heels” works in every city. “Down To Finish my novel” works in every city because that is a fairly universal desire in metro areas. So we’ll do something specific to certain areas, like “Down To Food Truck” works in Austin.

This campaign depends on being highly visual. But we were wondering how OkCupid’s marketing might translate to emerging channels like voice activation. Have you been thinking about a voice strategy?

That’s a really good question, and I can sat at this stage, we’re still figuring it out. The opportunity is there, clearly. People go into their dating apps so many times a day, more than any other app, for many people. How do we make it intimate and mindful, but also easy? Voice offers an extra opportunity to expand the ways people connect with the app. So, we’re certainly looking at all opportunities on how to use voice activation and looking the kinds of partners we’d like to explore it with.

You’ve recently partnered with Yelp on the Daters’ Choice Awards. Do you ever partner with local venues like restaurants?

We don’t do meet-ups. But when someone’s having an event that feels interesting, and it’s about making people feel affirmed, inclusive, connected, all with  substance, then we love to get involved. We don’t do a huge amount of event marketing because we actually have a lean team. Plus, dating is more about one-on-one instead of a group. But we’re always looking for ways to promote the brand and the ideas that OkCupid embodies.

Tinder recently began testing the use of location data to help create matches among its users. Does OkCupid use location data for those kinds of purposes?

Currently no. As I’ve said, we’re always looking at the next way to connect people. But we’re very careful about the use of location data in that kind of way. Naturally, dating apps are a geo-business. If you walk in and the bar’s empty, you’re gonna leave really quickly. So, for dating apps, location matters in terms of the marketing since you want to market where there’s a large audience clustered.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.