Hinge Tells Charming Dating Stories in Long-Copy, Site-Specific Ads in NYC

'Let's be real' campaign started with real user data

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Dating app Hinge‘s new out-of-home campaign in New York City is deceptively simple. There’s more going on than initially meets the eye—including data mining behind the scenes, copywriting that cleverly embodies the brand promise, and contextual placement that should bring a smile to those who encounter the work.

Hinge differs from rivals like Tinder in one key way. It matches you with people who are friends of your friends in social media. This added closeness means, hopefully, that you’ll have more things in common and be able to make a real connection—amid an online dating scene notoriously awash in fakery.

The OOH ads, from Barton F. Graf, double down on this idea of real connections by introducing the tagline “Let’s be real” and telling stories inspired by real user responses to what Hinge calls “prompts”—questions the app asks its users to glean info about their likes, dislikes, quirks and general personality types.

The Barton team wrote the billboards based off these data insights, then added site-specific references to the copy that tie each ad to its location—referencing a bowling alley next to one of the ads, for example, or a brew pub near another.

Check out some of the creative work here:

“We noticed a lot of trends in [users’] answers, both anecdotally and through data,” Hinge founder Justin McLeod tells Adweek. For example, the question “Where can people find you at the party?” prompted lots of people to reveal that they’re usually hanging out with the dog. That insight led to the ad below. (In addition to the site-specific boards, the campaign includes phone-booth executions that are not contextual.)

Making the billboards site-specific embeds them a little deeper in their neighborhoods, McLeod says. “We really wanted them to be striking, and part of that is being contextual,” he says. “It’s not every day that an ad you see on the street is referencing the restaurant next door.”

The run-on style of the sentences was also calculated.

“It’s this feeling of being a little bit whimsical,” says McLeod. “And also, this idea that one prompt [on Hinge] can lead to a text, that can lead to a conversation, that can lead to a date, that can lead to a relationship, that can lead to marriage, that can lead to kids. It’s that kind of cause-and-effect.”

The campaign, which is appearing in neighborhoods including the West Village, SoHo and Williamsburg, marks a strategy shift for Hinge following its relaunch last October. In previous work, it mostly critiqued competitors and the general soulless nature of online dating, including last year’s animated short film likening online dating to a dystopian carnival.

“We’re broadening our mission,” says McLeod. “When we launched, we wanted to make a big and bold and clear and almost exaggerated statement on swipe culture. Now, we’re moving from anti messaging to pro messaging. We talked about what we’re not. This is a pivot to what we are—an app that believes in authenticity and vulnerability.”

The long-copy executions embody Hinge’s brand message in another way, too. They take a little while to read, and thus stand in stark contrast to the lightning speed of everything online. “They really reflect our ethos,” McLeod says. “If you slow down and put in a bit of extra effort, there can be huge rewards.”

In its data-driven approach to OOH, the campaign is also a bit reminiscent of what Spotify has been doing on its own billboards—scraping user data to inform the copywriting, which should help forge a closer connection to the type of person who might use the service.

This is Barton’s first work for Hinge. The relationship came about through Hinge vp of marketing Olivia Abramowitz and Barton executive creative director Jeff Benjamin, who knew each other from working on American Express together.

“Since New York City has fueled much of our growth over the past year, we wanted to talk directly to that market with this campaign,” Abramowitz says. “There is so much superficiality in the world of modern dating, so we wanted to come out and say that there is still a place for authenticity and vulnerability, and that when you’re real, you’ll find find something real.”

Finally, the Barton creative team sent us this statement about the campaign: “Dating has become so gameified that we’ve forgotten what makes it fun in the first place—the spontaneity, the chance encounters, that kinda weird yet very memorable thing that happened on your walk home. Hinge allows people to be their real selves, which makes for real connections and a better dating app. This work attempts to capture that fuzzy feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time and don’t know where the date will take you.”

Client: Hinge

Agency: Barton F. Graf
Gerry Graf – Founder/CCO
Jeff Benjamin – ECD
Jonathan Vingiano – CD
Matt Moore – CD
Molly Wilkof – Copywriter
Zoe Kessler – Art Director
Ellery Luse – Strategy Director
Barney Robinson – CEO
Brandon Owens – Account Director
Sunchia Eckert – Account Supervisor
Theresa Reyes – Producer
Andra Gould – Project Manager

Print Production: Box Graphics Inc., Suk B Choi

Media Buying Company: MilkMoney, Inc.
CEO: Sam Keywanfar

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.