Huge’s Unusual Romance With OKCupid

Digital agency takes higher-risk revenue-sharing deal to build blind dating app

If OKCupid's newest blind-dating app does well enough, digital agency Huge will get some of the cash. The Interpublic Group shop created the OKCupid app—"Crazy Blind Date"—for the IAC-owned dating site as part of a deal that includes revenue-sharing, a first for Huge, the agency said.

The app aims to make it easier for busy singles to arrange face-to-face meetings by cutting out often lengthy processes of online courtship. Instead, users set up up in-person dates based on basic information like age, sexual orientation, location, and when they are free to meet

After each date, the app requires a user to rate the experience before it will let them schedule another. The app makes money by charging users a fee ranging from $.99 to $2.99 to rate the date — the higher the rating, the more it costs.

"[Users] really should rate accurately, especially when it involves paying, because they want the system to work, and they're grateful that it works well for them," said Huge's chief strategy officer Gene Liebel.

OKCupid and Huge are looking at the "honor system" paywall as a first edition of a revenue model, open to further tweaks down the line, Liebel said.

The way the revenue-sharing deal between the two companies is structured, OK Cupid has to start making money before Huge does. Somewhere north of 100,000 dates scheduled using the app, the agency will get a cut of each additional date.

This arrangement differs from a regular performance bonus in that the agency created the app at a reduced rate for OKCupid, and needs to recoup its own money before it sees any profit, Liebel said.

"They paid roughly half our fee," he said. "We have a lot of skin in the game and we will only make money if the app is a hit."

It might typically cost $500,000 to properly design and develop an app for two platforms — iOS and Android — Liebel said. "Budgets are finally going up as clients have learned that creating apps under scale didn't deliver results."

The potential reward makes the higher risk of the OKCupid deal worthwhile, said Liebel.

"To work on a product that can be a runaway hit with a brand like OKCupid, you have to be flexible and opportunistic," Liebel explained. "They're not the kind of company that's going to go around splashing a million dollars on an agency."

"We know we can create a hit app, even though the dating space is pretty saturated with apps right now," he added. "We think that with OKCupid we can do it and we're willing to take the risk."

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