Jeremy Katz
Cannes Lions
Looking for Love In All The Right Places

“I can’t remember what causes me more stress: forgetting my Apple ID or growing up without a father.”—Natasha Leggero


That’s the way to kick off a session with Sean Rad, President and Founder (and former CEO) of dating app Tinder. Tinder is the latest in a series of digital social applications that tie us ever more tightly to our phones, but the resulting anxiety is a price most of us are willing to pay for the incredible connection we gain, particularly when it comes to dating. Tinder, Rad asserts, taps into a universal desire. Meeting people is hard. There are missed connections, insecurities, and awkwardness. But Rad believes that, “we can use tech to make meeting people more efficient. Tinder removes all the social barriers and frustration.”

That explains, in part, why Tinder has grown so fast. While it’s no cure for human loneliness, Tinder is “bringing people closer together,” according to Rad. Or at least it’s bringing first world millennials together. Tinder claims to have fostered 8 billion connections so far. 1.4 billion swipes per day worldwide are resulting in 300 matches per second. Impressive numbers, and they are particularly enticing to advertising.


Rad discussed that Tinder has turned into an advertising platform for a few leading edge players. Recently, Fox partnered with the app to promote Melissa McCarthy’s movie, Spy, to provide users with exclusive access to a trailer. That integration is an example of what Rad feels is best way for a brand to use the app. He wants brands to come to them with exclusive content or material debuting on Tinder: “Something rare, new and special.” That serves his interests of course, giving his platform access to valuable, exclusive content brings users a richer experience and encouraging them to visit more often and dwell longer. But, for now at least, it looks like a good deal for brands as well.

It looks like Tinder’s millennial audience is open communication from brands, no doubt because of the mode they’re in while browsing the app. Users go to Tinder to discover new people and open themselves to new experiences. That is, Rad says, “a great environment for advertisers. The engagement rates are insane.” He claims that some brand profiles reach 25% swipe right rates.

For now, at least. No doubt those engagement rates will drop, and precipitously at that, once the novelty of brand integrations wears off and brands start displacing the cute boys and girls in your stream of matches.

That’s likely to happen. Tinder has an incredible trove of intimate, behavioral information about millions of the most attractive consumers in the world. They’re starting to mine the data, but when asked directly about it, Rad just swiped left. Considering all the information he has about so many of us, that’s concerning.

Even though Sean Rad got swiped left out of the CEO chair, he’s still out singing the praises of Tinder to audiences around the globe. Last week, he was in London at the Intelligence Squared/Vanity Fair Digital Summit. This week, he’s in Cannes, saying nearly the exact same things, no matter what question he’s asked.

Is Tinder about to become “a place for brands”?

Admittedly, he was talking to a room full of advertising people, but it was still striking how Sean Rad lasered in on the promotional potential of his brainchild. It’s become much more than a hookup, er, dating app and has now debuted as a place for brand promotion and music discovery. Rad wants original, exclusive content from brands—and why not? He gets free, premium content that way. His users are happy, for now. What happens when the brand integrations begin to displace the hotties?

The Secrets of Tinder Success

It stands to reason that the founder of Tinder would have good advice on how to succeed on the platform, and Rad didn’t disappoint. “Be yourself,” he said. Oh, wait, he did disappoint. Still, that’s not bad advice for the brands interested in going on the platform. This is an intimate environment for brands to play in. Those that do well will need to be absolutely authentic and will need to take care in how they connect with people.

Your Curated Self

As TS Eliot said, we have time “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” Social networks are the latest incarnation of that. SnapChat, Rad says, allows us to display our intrinsic, uncrated selves. Tinder, on the other hand, is the place for a more curated version of you. And Facebook, he says, is yet more of a performance. Every platform has a different use case. Nevertheless, Rad says that the more “real you are on Tinder, the more successful you will be.”

A Faster Run Rate

Tinder has introduced a new method of interaction and new phrase into the lexicon. (In fact, the brand is working to patent “swipe right.”) That’s part of the larger social project underway right now to make everything transparent. Of course, the sheer quantity of information a transparent world gives us makes it increasingly necessary for us to have a rapid way of sifting it. You can debate the more value of this all you want, but the fact is that we’re absorbing information at a furious rate. “Snapchat and tinder are very fast,” Rad says. “If you don’t deliver content at the rate we can consume it, you’ll become irrelevant.”

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