The Future of Dating: How OKCupid’s Subway Ads Champion an Inclusive Brand Voice 

OkCupid's post-pandemic ad campaign has drawn attention to important conversations around diversity and inclusion. What does this mean for the industry?

copywriting subway ads

During the pandemic, many singles had to put an indefinite pause to their romantic endeavors—at least those that involved in-person meetups. But nearly a year and a half later, OkCupid felt that it was the right time to nudge their users back into the dating world. 

By now, many are familiar with at least one of OkCupid’s eye-catching subway ads. Characterized by bright colors, bold images, and suggestive ad copy, they stirred quite a reaction from the public—some who wholeheartedly supported their approach, and others who weren’t as enamored. 

Regardless of the split in opinion, OkCupid achieved what it wanted: to open up space for the uncomfortable but necessary conversations about diversity and inclusion. Each subway ad highlighted a different facet of a person’s identity or preference, whether it was their vaccination status, political ideology, or relationship style. With simple but forward copy that challenged cultural and societal dating norms, OkCupid was able to validate a rich spectrum of identities while encouraging its users to seek out others with similar world perspectives.  

It leads us to wonder: how will these dating apps continue to change the way people connect with one another? Will there be more ways to optimize the virtual dating experience? 

OkCupid’s subway ads champion inclusivity as their brand

From the very beginning, OkCupid claimed diversity and inclusivity as part of its core values—and based on the app features, it seems to stay true to its word. With a wide range of identity tags, gender identities, and sexual orientations, it encourages users to express themselves authentically while filtering for others with similar interests and beliefs. Inclusivity defines the brand, setting it apart from other dating apps. While its competitors do embrace diverse users, other dating apps don’t put all needs in the spotlight. 

The strategy proved to be more than effective. According to the OkCupid blog, there was a 20% increase in users who identified as non-binary, 7% increase in people seeking non-monogamous relationships, and an 84% increase in pansexual daters. Celebrating diversity was one thing, but actually implementing inclusive features managed to successfully bring a wide range of users to its platform, giving users the space to find the love and companionship they were after. 

By listening to what users wanted and analyzing their behavior, OkCupid was able to develop and publicize what became the famous “Every Single Person” campaign: where every single human has the opportunity to build meaningful connections. The banner subway ads proclaim that the app was meant for, “Every Single Cuddler, Vaxxer, Non-binary, Pansexual,” and more. 

Each dating platform makes itself distinct through a specific branding strategy. Bumble is known for its female empowerment (“Make the first move”), where women are encouraged to initiate conversations with matches of their choice. Hinge aims to be “deleted” by its users, giving people the incentive to find love and promptly rid themselves of the app. With a focus on diversity, OkCupid stands out as a space that truly highlights and celebrates diverse identities. It doesn’t target just one demographic, but instead opens the doors for all, providing a unique opportunity for a more expansive user base. 

Learn why the best return on your marketing dollar comes from copywriting.

Effective copy sparks important conversations 

Shortly after OkCupid launched its subway ads all over the world, the dating app received mixed reactions from the public. While some thought the campaign to be cheeky and clever, others found the ads overwhelmingly inappropriate, namely for displaying different types of gender identities and relationship preferences that don’t always fall into the status quo. (Some enraged commuters even tore the advertisements down.)

Despite harsh criticism, OkCupid stood firm in its mission to create an inclusive dating platform for its users. If anything, it welcomed discomfort and tension, simply allowing the ad copy to speak for the brand and elevate the call for a more accepting, open-minded society. They responded to hatred with fierce determination, noting that, “When you’re truly inclusive, you’re bound to offend someone.” 

At the end of the day, the “Every Single Person” campaign achieved what was intended. Throughout it all, OkCupid’s goal was to create a dating platform that welcomes and embraces people of all backgrounds. If the road to inclusivity is rough with opposition and reluctance, OkCupid will likely fight to see the end if it means that its users have the freedom to wholly celebrate their identities and live their best dating lives. 

MarketSmiths Case Study

The hands-down largest transportation network in North America, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in New York serves over 15 million riders. When the MTA decided to modernize the fare payment system and launch OMNY (One Metro New York)—contactless “tap and go” riding, it encountered an obstacle: how to communicate several options across a ridiculously broad range of languages, reading levels, digital savvy, and more. NY-based web agency Reflexions, on deck to build the new OMNY website, tapped MarketSmiths to write the web copy, introducing New Yorkers to their future of transit: crisply and effectively. As of November 2019, OMNY rollout has been a massive success, with 6,100 taps on day 1, widespread early adoption, and installation across 472 stations. 

> Read the full case study

What does this mean for the future of online dating? 

Mobile and web dating apps have become an everyday staple of modern romance, especially for those struggling to find the time to pursue love. 

As brands like OkCupid continue to evolve and cater to the needs of their audience, there’s no telling how they’ll reimagine human connections and relationships—but as long as they keep their user base at the center of their language, their hopes of a truly inclusive future may come into full fruition.  

Ready to awe your audience with strong and impressionable copy? Swipe right on MarketSmiths to get started.

Shi-won Oh

Shi-won Oh

Former 6th Grade ELA teacher, now copywriter, Shi-won loves to use writing as a tool to empower, educate, and entertain. She enjoys collecting books for her library, daydreaming about Middle Earth, and searching for the coziest Korean restaurants in Queens.

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