As consumers get savvier at avoiding traditional advertising, brands are trying new ways to blend ads with media content. Now, these “native ads” are expanding onto platforms with a romantic or even erotic focus. In the latest example, no less a diva than the newly single Mariah Carey created a Match.com profile to promote her latest video. Much like a first date, dating platforms offer the opportunity for undivided attention—but the potential for missteps and embarrassment is equally great.

Screen-Shot-2015-03-23-at-15.52.10

Demographics are one factor making dating apps and websites attractive to advertisers. According to a study by the UK consulting firm GlobalWebIndex, 83% of Tinder users are 16 to 34, making the platform a surefire way to connect with millennials and generation Z. Tinder users also tend to buy premium products (64%) and keep up with the latest fashions (60%).

Tinder launched its first official native ad in partnership with Budweiser in April 2015, although brands had already been experimenting for some time on the app, with its tacit approval. A promotion by Domino’s UK, which “matched” lonely swipers with discounts for pizza on Valentine’s Day, was a social hit, with a reach of over 230,000 at a cost of £0.00008 per impression.

Dominos-Tinder1

The entertainment industry has also been an early adopter—to promote the movie Spy, Twentieth Century Fox used Tinder to hand out free tickets to special screenings. The promotion, which gave away 15,000 tickets in 50 markets, generated more than 17m social impressions with its hashtag #Spytacular.

Ever the boundary-pusher, Madonna recently used the all-male hookup and social app Grindr to promote her album Rebel Heart, encouraging fans to recreate the album artwork on their Grindr profiles for a chance to chat with the pop legend. And the ad agency McCann Lima even created an instructional video instructing men on self-screening for testicular cancer that masqueraded as erotic content on Pornhub.com.

IMG_4281

However, the strategy doesn’t work for every brand. An attempt by Gap to create a native campaign for Tinder was pulled by the app, apparently because the retailer had failed to inform Tinder of its plans. And at South by Southwest, promoters of the film Ex Machina created such a convincing chatbot that many men thought they had successfully arranged a date, only to be angered when they discovered it was all a promotional ruse.

Romantic and erotic platforms can offer opportunities for brands to be clever and relatable, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Swipe with care.