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Bumbling Fools: Women Swipe Left on New Bumble Ad Campaign

The dating app seemingly encouraged women to lower their standards in a ham-fisted ad campaign. Mmm… ham.

By Katie Compa · May 23, 2024

Synonyms: bungle, stumble, blunder. Ivan Radic/Flickr

Disclaimer: While this article swipes right on all things factual, it does contain some left swipes of satire… ugh, and that’s clearly a photo of satire from 7 years ago.

Bumble, the (at this point) familiar yellow app for swiping—sorry, dating—was in hot water this month after rolling out a less-than-well-received ad campaign, ostensibly aimed at (mainly straight) women, using taglines like “Thou shalt not give up on dating and become a nun,” and “You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer.”

Counterpoint: Are you absolutely certain these women aren’t thriving?  DeusXFlorida/Flickr

For the app, it’s a pivot in more ways than one. At its launch in 2014, Bumble set itself apart from its competitors largely with its “women make the first move” approach (where, after matching, the woman had 24 hours to send a message to move things forward). Timed with the new campaign is the biggest change to the app interface: men, too, can now “make the first move.” This development is likely a relief for any woman on Bumble who has taken the time to craft a thoughtful conversation-starter, only to eventually receive a dick pic; of course, standard protocol requires that those be shared with her entire coven for both mocking and hex development.

Consider yourselves warned, aspiring dick models.  Petitprez Laurent/Flickr

To make matters worse for themselves, the marketing team had just done a teaser promotion of the forthcoming campaign with a tagline: “Dating needs a wakeup call.” But when the campaign appeared, Bumble’s only call to action for women seemed to be… Lower your standards, ladies.

What do you think we've spent generations doing?  saf2285/Flickr

In the context of ALMOST EVERYTHING HAPPENING RIGHT NOW, trying to convince a modern woman that the fault lies with her for choosing not to date or to remain celibate is both regressive and insulting, not to mention out of touch. Around the time Bumble was teasing its campaign, the internet found that most women would rather unexpectedly encounter a bear than a man.

When one woman went solo hiking in bear country, guess what actually accosted her? (Hint: It wasn't this guy.)  Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith/Flickr

Though it’s yet to be disproven that a good man is hard to find, women needn’t declare themselves incels just yet. As it turns out, according to market research, three-quarters of Bumble customers are men. Though not quite doing Ashley Madison numbers (and still having more women than Tinder, per chap-ita) (we’ll see ourselves out!), the ratio indicates that on Bumble, women are still the more sought-after… while we hate to say “commodity,” due to late-stage capitalism, we must. 

Is the lopsided proportion reflected in dating profiles? Of course not:

Is Bumble responsible for the goods on its marketplace? Of course not. But, rather than mount a campaign that might educate the customers looking to date women about what women find appealing, the company’s first order of business is to serve its shareholders. Quarterly profits at Bumble have been on the decline, and the previous CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, was replaced (which has freed her up to start something even worse, probably).

Bumble pulled the ads, issued an apology that hit all the right points, made donations to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and related organizations, and gave up their unused ad space for anti-DV ads—all follow-up actions that will make the company’s story a perfect B-school case study for rising MBA students. Still, it remains to be seen whether they can convince their customer base that they give a swipe.