Tinder Founder Says More Than 20% of Users Swipe Right on Brands

Sean Rad looks to hook up with advertisers at Cannes

SapientNitro CMO Bill Kanarick (l.) and Tinder cofounder Sean Rad (r.) talk ads at Cannes.

CANNES, France—Sean Rad, co-founder of Tinder, is the face of modern dating. His app is responsible for billions of potential love matches, all based on a rather simple concept: swiping right.

The term has gone mainstream—to "swipe right" means you have explicitly endorsed someone or something. So you can see how brands would want to get in on the swiping action in the context of millennial dating.

Rad is at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to help the company make its first big push into the ad world, an environment Tinder is only just becoming acquainted with.

But what a courtship it's been so far.

"We have what we call Promoted Profiles, so brands can create profiles in Tinder, and we promote them," Rad said, during an interview after his first public talk in Cannes on Sunday. "Users can match with these brands when they swipe right, and what we've seen sort of consistently when we've done this is an over 20 percent swipe right rate, which is amazing engagement."

So when early advertisers like Bud Light or the movie Spy post profiles, more than 1 in 5 Tinder users swipe right to match with them and open the way for the ability to share more content with  consumers.

Rad said Tinder ads work best when they're sharing exclusive content and offers. There are also video ads, which Bud Light and Orbitz have bought, and the completion rate on them is "leaps above" rival mobile video ad offerings, Rad said.

Tinder said it was not ready to reveal more meaningful numbers behind the success of video ads. The company, owned by digital publishing giant IAC, also hasn't ever stated how many active users there are on the app, only that there are billions of matches, and of course some users can be responsible for hundreds of those.

Rad did say there is wide global audience, and that the average user spends 11 minutes a day swiping and texting through Tinder.

The company has ambitions that are perhaps more broad than dating. At its core, it's a people discovery app that could theoretically introduce more than potential lovers.

Rad said Tinder is in the process of patenting the swipe right, too. "We're filing to get a patent on basically swiping in any direction to perform an action, which covers swiping right or left, up or down, any direction."

Asked whether Tinder would introduce "swipe up," and what for, Rad avoided answering, but it's clear he has ideas in mind for more swiping and more advertising. While there's no swipe-up feature today, Rad said, "there might be a reason" for one in the future.

The Tinder co-founder, also former CEO, was at Cannes holding talks with digital marketing companies like SapientNitro.

"What we can learn from Sean and Tinder is how to connect with an audience," said Sapient CMO Bill Kanarick. The company is hosting events at a penthouse overlooking the Croisette in Cannes, a place to invite influential tech leaders like Rad.

"We are learning about the rate at which people are able to consume content versus in the past," Kanarick said, identifying one key characteristic of today's consumer. "That's an interesting consideration for an advertiser."

There's an immediacy and speed about Tinder, where users have split seconds to engage with a potential date before they get swiped to the left. The same action is forcing brands to consider how to attract consumers there.

"The beauty of Tinder is that it's an environment where the user is in control," Rad said. "If you don't want to see something, you can easily swipe left."

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