‘Who approved this?’: Dating app Bumble cops backlash over new billboards

Popular dating app Bumble is facing huge backlash following the launch of a billboard ad campaign to go along with the company’s revamp.

Bumble’s new global campaign was meant to show off the changes being made to the app, with one of the biggest being removing the requirement for women to initiate the conversations with potential matches.

The major change has been done in a bid to remove the “burden” from women of initiating every conversation, while also still allowing them to maintain control.

However, it seems some of the messaging hasn’t hit home for social media users, with one billboard in particular sparking upset.

One of the signs that appeared in Los Angeles includes the slogan: “You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer.”

Multiple photos of this billboard, plus other signs appearing to show the same words with a different image, have been shared to social media by outraged users.

Best-selling author and published researcher, Shahida Arabi, branded the advertisement “gross” and likened it to policing women’s chose whether or not to have sex.

“So apparently Bumble has billboards scolding women saying ‘You know full well celibacy is not the answer’. What. The. Heck? They didn’t even say not dating — they specifically said celibacy. Gross. Are women a product to be sold?” she wrote on X.

Others slammed the message as “legitimately disgusting” and “disturbing”. Some were so stunned by the move that they thought the billboards must have been fake.

A Bumble spokesperson told news.com.au that the brand was now in the process of removing the messaging from their campaign.

“Women’s experiences are at the centre of what we do at Bumble. As part of our recent marketing campaign, we included an ad with language around celibacy as a response to the frustrations of dating,” the spokesperson said.

“We have heard the concerns shared about the ad’s language and understand that rather than highlighting a current sentiment towards dating, it may have had a negative impact on some of our community.

“This was not our intention and we are in the process of removing it from our marketing campaign, and will continue to listen to the feedback from our members.”

Social media users have also taken their outrage to TikTok, with multiple videos emerging of people sharing their thoughts on the billboards.

“This is one of the most disgusting ads I have seen in a really long time. Because how dare you shame women for choosing to reserve their bodies or preserve their mental and physical health because, in case y’all didn’t know, there is an STD epidemic happening right now,” one TikTok user said.

“How dare you shame women for choosing not to engage in sex.”

Another user, Sara McCord, who often shares her opinion on brands and their marketing, claimed this billboard was a “miss” for Bumble as it went against the company’s “origin story” that was premised in women’s empowerment.

“It’s so counterintuitive to the origin story because it doesn’t feel sex positive, it doesn’t feel empowering to women,” she said in her video.

“This is not sex positive creative because the idea of ‘you know not having sex is not the answer’ is so cringy. Who approved this billboard?”

With the new Bumble update, which is what the campaign is aiming to promote, female users can preselect a feature called “Opening Moves”, which allows them to place questions on their profiles, to which men who match with them can respond.

In same-sex and non-binary matches, both sides can include these prompts.

Previously, it would only be women who could send the first message, with men then given 24 hours to respond before the match expired.

CEO Lidiane Jones, who took over from founder Whitney Wolfe Herd, said they decided on this feature as a comfortable “middle ground” that allowed women to maintain control but also removed some of the “burden” of having to start the conversation.

“This was where it felt right for our customers,” she told reporters when the changes were announced.

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