OkCupid Redefines ‘DTF’ in Striking Ads That Are Like Little Works of Art

W+K enlists Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari for campaign

The ads are a colorful counterpoint to a modern dating scene that "treats emotions like a disposable commodity."

OkCupid is DTF, but not like that.

The dating site rethinks that blunt old acronym, originally meaning “down to fuck,” by making it the centerpiece of a new campaign from Wieden + Kennedy New York—with the F word replaced by dozens of enlightened alternatives, leading to phrases like “down to feel fabulous,” “down to forget our baggage” and “down to fight about the president.”

The point being: Dating can and should be about more than hookups. The tagline is, “Dating deserves better.”

The headlines are matched with fun, brightly colored photographs. Several of the ads also have a political message, adding to the already provocative use of “DTF” as a theme. It’s a highly artistic campaign, too—W+K worked with artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari, the creators of Toilet Paper magazine, on the ads.

The campaign marks the latest attack on dating culture, which has come to seem dehumanized in the binary, swipe-left-or-right age of Tinder. (Other dating apps, including Hinge, have also based recent ads around fostering deeper connections between users.)

OkCupid CMO Melissa Hobley tells AdFreak that the new campaign signals the brand’s commitment to being focused on substance and depth, while also reflecting the issues and passions that people care about.

“In the current political and social climate, we felt a responsibility and saw an opportunity to play a part in changing the conversation about dating culture and empowering each individual to reclaim the meaning of DTF and make it theirs,” she says.

OkCupid aims to achieve substance and depth through the app’s features. It asks users more than a dozen questions while setting up a profile and recently launched OkCupid Discovery, which lets users search by passions and interests. It aims to achieve relevance through the brand voice, having found traction by leaning into politics over the past year—including adding a “Trump Filter” to its list of questions.

“The response to this blew us away, and most importantly, signaled how important it was for people to be able to talk politics in dating,” Hobley says. “We do this better than anyone, and regularly add political questions into the OkCupid experience.”

The focus on politics is readily apparent in several of the new ads:

The ads are aimed at anyone who wants to bring their full selves to dating. But Hobley says they may resonate especially with women, who are “aware that the phrase DTF was used historically in a negative way. There’s power in taking that back and making it yours.”

In terms of craft, the W+K creatives said the campaign is meant to feel playful and positive, as a counterpoint to where so much of the dating scene is headed.

“We set out to really explore what happened to chivalry and courtship and how modern-day dating seemed to be on a bad trajectory,” says copywriter Ian Hart. “When we say dating deserves better, what we’re really saying is people who date deserve better. Because I mean, they really do. Modern dating treats emotions like a disposable commodity. Anyone who’s been single knows this. It’s an aspiration to treating people like people.”

Cattelan and Ferrari were the perfect collaborators in bringing this positive message to life.

“Originally when we began crafting the idea, we were thinking it’d be cool to explore bold simple typography,” says W+K art director Jessica Shriftman. “But the head of art production introduced us to Toilet Paper magazine, and immediately we thought that a ballsy style of photography would compliment the work even more and show couples engaged in fun activities.”

Hart says the campaign “is a celebration of who we are as individuals in the dating sphere—DTF celebrates what makes each of us unique. We needed the visuals to reflect this. Basically it’s sort of this ‘Imagine if dating were…’ thought that’s very playful and joyful. I think Maurizio and Pierpaolo’s work creates visuals that are, by very their nature, optimistic and pleasant, which allows the content matter to venture into a more surrealistic world without losing its positive message.”

The creatives Skyped with Cattelan and Ferrari a lot in the early stages, “which was different for us,” says Shriftman. “They were very collaborative—I know the c-word is overused, but it’s true—and showed tons of mood reference for each concept while being super open to our ideas and feedback.”

The creatives came up with scores of ideas for individual executions, but discarded most of them. “There are no Don Draper insta-done scenarios happening over here,” says Hart. “We simply came up with a ton of scenarios, pressure tested them, found out 90 percent are trash, rinsed, washed and repeated until we had our campaign.”

For most of the executions, the W+K came up with the line of copy first—and then developed the visual in collaboration with Cattelan and Ferrari. But in a few cases, it was the opposite.

“Maurizio and Pierpaolo work super fast and have so many ideas,” says Shriftman. “They originally presented a visual of a paper bag with eyes on it to us during one of our Skype calls. And while it wasn’t right for one of our approved concepts, we loved it and knew we could write to it, so ‘Forget our baggage’ actually came out of that.”

The trick for most of the ads was to find a balance between being too literal on the one hand, and too esoteric on the other.

“We were thankful to Maurizio and Pierpaolo for always providing us with options,” Shriftman says. “I think the photographers’ strength is that they’ll never play it too safe and there always needs to be a visual twist to make it interesting.”

Hobley says she is most excited about the campaign because “every image feels like a work of art” and many of them make a significant statement.

“For example, the DTFall Head Over Heels is beautiful,” she says. “It doesn’t actually matter if our users are straight or fall under one of the 13 sexual orientation options. Our ecosystem cares that we have a great experience for so many communities, and that’s partly what this image symbolizes.”

Hobley adds: “I also love the political executions because it speaks to how OkCupid is one of the only places where folks can connect on politics and the issues that matter to them. And next to each other, these images are incredible and very powerful.”

Client: OkCupid
Melissa Hobley – Chief Marketing Officer
Bernadette Libonate – Senior Marketing Manager
Devin Colleran – Brand Manager
Dana Davis – Communications / Graphic Designer
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy New York
Executive Creative Directors – Karl Lieberman
Copywriter – Ian Hart
Art Director – Jessica Shriftman
Art Director (social / banners) – Nathan Wigglesworth
Head of Art Buying – Deb Rosen
Senior Art Buyer – Ali Berk
Strategist – Brian Ritter
Social Director – Jessica Breslin
Account Team – Jacqueline Steele, Sydney Gayner
Head of Business Affairs – Patrick ODonoghue
Business Affairs – Carla Curry
Traffic Coordinator – Andy Hume
Project Manager – Ava Rant
Head of Creative Services – Chris Whalley
Studio – Laura Paulino, Leigh Ann Dykes, David Niblick, Nathan Delessandro, Jill Kearton, Napoleon Nicdao
Design – Justin Flood, Robert Engvall, Frank DeRose, James Hughes, Meredith Marino

Joint / Motion Graphics
Producer – Brian Schimpf
Motion Graphics ​- ​ Damian Riddell

Photographers and Production Team
Photographers – Maurizio Cattelan & Pierpaolo Ferrari
Production Company – Pro Service Production
Executive Producer – Federico Delle Piane
Production Coordinator – Giulia Venturini
Production Assistant – Stefania Biliato
Digital Capture – Silvano Banfi
RetoucherBenedetta Ferrari
Art Director – Micol Talso
Set Designer – Michela Natella
Wardrobe Stylist – Elisa Zaccanti
Hair Stylist – Gabriele Trezzi
Makeup Stylist – Lorenzo Zavatta
Videographer – Caterina Vigano`