Grindr, the gay hook-up app, thinks brands should be taking dating apps more seriously.

Since its launch in 2009, Grindr has banked on immediacy — letting users exchange messages and photos based on their proximity. Now, it’s hoping to bottle this for advertisers willing to experiment with the platform.  

“Facebook launched Facebook Live to try live streaming video, but we’ve been live for seven years,” said Landis Smithers, Grindr’s vp of marketing. “We’re always in the moment, and I think in that sense it’s extremely unique. There is a fear of missing out. If you don’t know what’s happening literally right now, you’re out of the zeitgeist.”

As platforms like Facebook Live and Snapchat are becoming more popular, brands are now exploring ways to deliver content to the masses in a way that feels authentic and spontaneous.

As the largest gay social network, Grindr’s 2 million daily users spend an average of 54 minutes on the app. (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his social networks retain users for an average of 50 minutes a day.) More than a third (37 percent) of its user base is made up of 18- to 24-year-olds.

But despite the swathes of “neck-to-knee” profile pictures, these users don’t just go to the app for sex. “A third of the time on the app, people aren’t looking to hook up; they’re looking to kill time,” Smithers said.

Libby Robinson, EMEA managing director of M&C Saatchi Mobile, says the spend on native has grown to account for 50 percent of all display budgets this year, two-thirds of which is in-app.

“In the past year, dating apps have reached a tipping point,” she said. “Grindr, Tinder and Happn are mobile-first platforms, and as such, there is huge potential for contextual and native advertising to deliver results, particularly with the availability of first-party data.”

Grindr already hosts mobile banner ads sold by CPM alongside notification-style broadcasts that can be pushed to local and national audiences using the app’s geo-location data. Among those advertising are Uber, Airbnb and music promoter Live Nation, which uses the app to blast out announcements about artists like Madonna and Nicki Minaj.

Following revenue growth, its 15-person sales team has expanded out of the U.S., with reps now in London, Paris and Sydney — the app’s top three cities outside America. Besides ads, the company earns the majority of its revenue from subscriptions to its ad-free premium service, Grindr Xtra, which lets users search a larger number of profiles with a bigger choice of filters.

But for all the potential, the initial forays into bigger brand partnerships have been underwhelming: Grindr’s collaboration with J.W. Anderson, which saw the app live stream the Irish designer’s menswear collection in January, saw 40,000 users tune in live, with 150,000 watching over the next 24 hours. While Smithers — who couldn’t divulge conversion figures for J.W. Anderson — chalks this up as a success, this figure presents just a fraction of a percent of Grindr’s active user base.

Phil Rowley, global innovation director at PHD’s Global Strategy Unit, thinks the main challenge here is finding a fit.

“Grindr and Tindr represent an opportunity for brands to integrate into people’s lifestyles in a much deeper and profound way,” he said. “We are going to see increasing number of brands exploiting Grindr, and whilst it does represent an opportunity for advertisers, ultimately it only represents an opportunity for a select few.”

While Grindr isn’t planning on doing another fashion live stream, it is now in talks with players in the world of tech, sports and music. Smithers says the platform is turning away around half of the interested parties because it wants to keep its partnerships surprising.

“I just think at least in the first 12 months, we want to keep shifting what we do and explore,” Smithers said. “It’s testing time for us.”

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