Hollywood executives are flirting with a new, ambitious marketing concept: choosing popular dating apps to promote their latest projects.
Earlier this month, Twentieth Century Fox hooked up with Tinder to market the comedy "Spy," starring Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law, which opens later this week. Instead of a date, users were given the chance to "swipe right" (Tinder-speak for you're interested) for free tickets to special screenings of the movie around the country.
"It completely sold out in every market," Fox Studios president of marketing Marc Weinstock told TheWrap. "Tinder was a perfect match for our audience. They're very strong in the 17-34 [demographic]. What could be better for a first date than a hilarious comedy?"
The response to the Tinder promo was dramatic. Within days, 27,000 people signed up for 15,000 available tickets in 50 different markets. More importantly, users who scored free tickets were asked to tweet about it — and they did. The event generated more than 17 million impressions on social media, all with the hashtag #Spytacular.
"Millennials are on Tinder," the app's marketing vice president Phil Schwarz told TheWrap. "Now that we know that it works, anytime we have the ability to offer something to our users that we think will make them happy, we'll do it."
The mobile dating industry has taken off in recent years. The U.S. market is now estimated at a whopping $2.1 billion. While subscription fees still account for a majority of the applications' revenues, many apps have begun toying with advertising concepts to boost their bottom lines.
Grindr, the leading dating app for gay men, has seen its ad revenue spike 65 percent over the last six months thanks in part to promotional deals with Logo TV, MTV and Madonna.
In February, the pop icon offered five fans the chance to win a special chat with her as part of a special promotion on Grindr. Users were asked to re-create Madonna's "Rebel Heart" album artwork and post it as their Grindr profile picture, along with the hashtag #LivingForLove.
Madge isn't the only pop legend to jump on the trend. Mariah Carey just joined Match.com — but not because she's newly single. The pop singer is promoting her latest music video "Infinity," which debuted on Match and VEVO.
Other musicians have used dating sites to launch music. DJ-producer Zedd used Tinder last month to help promote his album "True Colors." Jason Derulo launched his video "Want To Want Me" on Tinder in March. And Hilary Duff was spotted a few weeks ago on the dating app hawking her new single, "Sparks."
Experts say that users can expect to see a lot more promotional campaigns popping up on their dating apps ... and soon.
"Advertisers need efficient ways to reach their target audience," advertising expert and founder of The Brand Identity Center, Chad Kawalec, told TheWrap. "In the past it was almost exclusively TV, but millennials don't watch as much TV anymore. When a tool like Tinder comes along, advertisers are going to jump at the opportunity."
But not every dating app campaign has been love at first sight.
Last year, Tinder signed a deal with Fox to promote "The Mindy Project" by creating fake profiles for some of the show's characters. Users who swiped right got an exclusive sneak peek at an upcoming episode, but the campaign was met with mixed results. While some hailed the promotion as innovative and clever, others found it counterproductive. One Tinder user complained, "Am I the only person who is REALLY REALLY UPSET about the purposeful obfuscation of digital advertising content?"
Experts say that these dating apps would be wise to tread carefully with their promotional endeavors.
"An app like Tinder is successful because people feel the information is somewhat reliable," said Kawalec. "One of the worst feelings you can get from the app is the feeling of being deceived either by a fake profile or a misleading advertiser."
But mixing business with pleasure seems to be the way of future, at least when it comes to dating apps.
"It's a win-win situation," said Schwarz of Tinder's "Spy" promotion. "Our users got an early free exclusive access to a major screening. We consider it a big success."
Tinder declined to share how much it earns from its Hollywood partnerships, but the company says its engagement rates have been consistently high — averaging at about 20 percent.
Considering that Tinder is available in 196 countries, with 26 million new matches made each day, that can translate into millions of dollars.
"We know that people spend 77 minutes a day on Tinder," said Weinstock. "That's a really captive audience."
Read original story Hollywood Swipes Right for Tinder, Grindr to Market Movies, TV and Music At TheWrap