Match.com Targets Men, Plans Ad Spending Boost

Dating site Match.com is taking its message to males, with a major Valentine’s Day advertising effort that it says marks the beginning of a new brand marketing push.

The highlight of the campaign, which is running on MarketWatch.com, is a one-day-only full-screen Flash ad that appears when Web surfers first visit the site.

The Flash ad shows a picture of a bartender, with the copy: “He’s attentive. He laughs at your jokes. He’s been your valentine for the past five years. Get a love life you can brag about.”

Once the MarketWatch.com site loads, Match.com ads also appear on the home page’s banner and skyscraper space. The skyscraper execution allows users to specify their sought-after mate’s gender, age, and to click to a Match.com page with personal ads that meet those specifications.

Unlike most of Dallas, Texas-based Match.com’s brand advertising, the creative and placement on MarketWatch is intended chiefly to woo males.

“It’s bit of a departure for us,” said Match.com president Tim Sullivan. “Most of the branding advertising for us has been targeted toward females. Our television ad campaigns have been targeted to women … [But] The opportunity for a branding message on MarketWatch triggered the creation of this spot.”

Sullivan said that Match.com has run banner ads geared to both men and women in the past, but the new campaign represents “a great opportunity to reach out to males … more than the kind of simplistic reaching out to males with online advertising that we’ve traditionally done. It’s like a nine-second television spot that demands and commands folks’ attention the first thing when they log into MarketWatch on Valentine’s Day.”

The campaign is the first time that Match.com has used either an introductory rich media spot or a one-day execution — both of which are rarities in the online advertising world. (Studies conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, for instance, have found that rich media comprises only about 2 percent of online creative.)

“This is potentially a very interesting direction for us, and for online advertising in general,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan declined to say how much Match.com spent on the Valentine’s Day effort, but described it as “a sizable chunk, for a one-day thing.”

“But the great thing about our advertising is that it works, and it pays for itself,” he said. “So [the MarketWatch buy] is a great investment.”

Match.com, which is owned by TicketMaster-Citysearch, is also running several other Valentine’s Day-themed promotions in conjunction with its parent. In Miami and San Francisco, for instance, the site used surveys to create local dating guides.

The work marks a stepping-up of Match.com’s overall brand advertising and awareness efforts, Sullivan said.

In addition to a women-focused television campaign currently airing, Match.com said it intends to increase its online advertising as well, with Sullivan saying the $10 million it currently has earmarked for each medium is “a minimum number.”

“Our success last year … has encouraged us to seek to build a brand this year,” he said. “Last year was … much more focused on establishing and growing our major distribution partnerships, with AOL, MSN and iVillage.”

“We’re continuing that, but … we want to introduce the category to everyone in America,” Sullivan added. “It will be a big year for us in terms of really expanding our marketing dollars and efforts.”

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