When single people travel to a new city they often arrive at their hotel, put their bags down and bring out their phone. The first app that they’ll often go to is Tinder, a social networking app which connects men and women who are looking for sex, to see just exactly who is available in the area for drinks that night. Those who found themselves in Austin at the annual tech conference SXSW stumbled upon this beautiful woman named ‘Ava’.

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Attractive, isn’t she?

Unfortunately for the single men who began to talk to her….she was a bot. Yes, she was a marketing stunt for a new movie. She sent users to an Instagram page where they discovered that the beautiful young woman they were speaking to was simply a ploy to get them to see the new film. Whilst some of the Tinder users won prizes such as tickets to the premier others were left simply lying in bed and feeling incredibly disillusioned about life.

Whilst I’m not deriding the company for using the Tinder platform for their promotional material, it’s a unique platform if you know how to sell on it, but there does seem something inherently wrong about advertising on a dating app.

Why? What makes a dating app different from a game app or a blogging app or a productivity app? Because, some things should really be off-limits.

It can be quite difficult to pull at the heartstrings of a consumer when trying to sell to them. Over the past few years Apple has been releasing a few different ‘heartstring’ ads

 

They’re exactly what you would expect: sappy and yet subtle. Less of a focus on the technology used but more on the fact that technology can bring us all together (awwwww!).

However, the Tinder ad that we saw in Austin at SXSW was not over that they advertising a movie. They forced the user to have a lengthy conversation with the bot before directing them to the Instagram profile. The danger of this is that the user may, and hear me out, feel foolish. They may think that the Tinder profile was real and had enjoyed the conversation with the young woman from Austin. To find out that it was only a bot, a marketing ploy at that, can leave them feeling disheartened and embarrassed. That does not bode well for business. The campaign would have automatically turned the user off the brand because they invaded a personal experience that one user thought that they were having with another. In fact, many of them would have considered it akin to catfishing.

Now, it’s important for me to clarify something: this is not actually new. Anyone who has spent any time on messaging services such as kik, Skype, MSN or AIM (god those last two take me back!) will know that the services are now filled with bots whose only reason for existing is to send horny, young men to porn and cam sites. They lure the weak-willed in with promises of seeing them naked on their webcam and to get special access if all they do is click a link (which often infects their computers with malware). It does not surprise me in the least that Tinder is the latest evolution of this hack pornucopia. Those who are the gutter advertisers will easily stoop to the lowest level of advertising and marketing in order to flog their wares. That is the very nature of spam.

For this particular case, it is an inspired piece of marketing (see…I told you I didn’t have any problems with it if it were done right). The movie delves into issues of artificial intelligence and what it means to be human. It makes sense that ‘Ava’ is a bot on Tinder because she is a bot in the movie. The character takes on a life outside the realm of the movie. Yet, there are many who would leave Austin heartbroken for not being able to meet the beautiful Ava (who was actually Swedish actress Alicia Vikander). Some would leave questioning if anyone on Tinder was real anymore. I would counsel other brands not to try their luck with Tinder. In many cases they’d be losing far more customers than they would be gaining. It’s always complicated when it comes to matters of the heart.