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How Tinder created an apocalyptic, choose-your-own-adventure love story for Gen Z

The Drum 07 Apr 2021 10:00

For Gen Z, swiping had become a bore. Enter ’Swipe Night,’ Tinder’s dynamic choose-your-own-adventure style experience — full of twists, turns and a range of real-life moral dilemmas that matched users based on the way they played. The campaign proved to be a match made in heaven for daters and Tinder, and was so well received that it ranked 6th in this year’s World Creative Rankings. To get the full scoop, The Drum spoke to Los Angeles-based agency 72andSunny.

Tinder, it could be argued, mainstreamed the ’swipe.’ The app made swiping for romance, well, cool (not to mention that research suggests that, from a cognitive standpoint, swiping is just as easy as tapping). Now, the interfaces of everything from e-commerce platforms to food and beverage ordering apps employ swipe functions.

But gradually, Tinder users grew bored of swiping. And, according to Kyle Miller, head of product at Tinder, Gen Zers, who make up over half of Tinder users, demanded more control over their experience. In an effort to re-captivate users, match daters in new ways and ultimately make swiping great again, Tinder enlisted the help of creative agency 72andSunny LA. What came of the partnership was ’Swipe Night,’ a bold and immersive choose-your-own-adventure-style video experience for US users that played out episodically across four weeks in the fall of 2019. It was so successful that it was brought back by popular demand, globally, last year.

Miller says that the objective of the campaign was threefold. First of all, the team wanted to “make Tinder feel alive — like everyone’s on at the same time.” The second goal was to provide users with the control they had been demanding. Finally, Tinder wanted to connect users in fun, new ways based on their preferences and tendencies.

After developing a prototype, Kate Morrison, head of production at 72andSunny LA, said it became clear that “the story needed to be thrilling… it had to be about more than, ‘Do I want orange juice or coffee in the morning?’” So they assembled a team of film and TV writers. The group developed a 60-page script that outlined a basic story: the user is the protagonist, and they discover they have three hours left to live before the world is obliterated by an asteroid. But how the story unfolds is entirely up to the user. As the clock ticks down, users encounter a series of choices. Some seem inconsequential: turn this way or that way. Others are charged with a moral gravity: save a human or a puppy? The user is given just seven seconds to lock in every decision by swiping one way or another — and they can’t revise or rethink them.

Bringing the script to life

To give users the sense that they were driving the story themselves, the team chose to shoot the episodes from a first-person point of view. “Everybody uses Tinder on their phone — it only really exists on mobile. So the idea was, ‘Okay, I need to feel like I am making these decisions on my own behalf based on how I would react here,’” says Murphy. To create this feeling, a camera was attached to one person, who moved through the Mexico City set from scene to scene.

Rebuilding the entire app before the big debut

Thanks to the 15 million users who engaged with the first rollout of ’Swipe Night,’ Tinder saw a spike in conversations between users and a match rate increase of more than 25%. Inspired by this success, Tinder relaunched the campaign internationally in February 2020. It repackaged the four original episodes into three longer episodes because users enjoyed the longer format.

Wiedemann believes that interactive video was the perfect format for ’Swipe Night,’ as it helped achieve its goal of engaging Gen Z users in a new, unexpected way. “Video is native to this generation,” she says. “That’s how they consume things. That’s how they learn. That's how they’re social. But with so much content out there, it was our challenge to make our content unique. Our content was tied inherently to the ‘swipe,’ which is not something that anybody else was doing. So we married our ‘swipe’ with video and then created a unique perspective where users have more control. That was really like a huge differentiation for us. That made it unique, exciting and fun.”

The Drum is celebrating this year’s standout performers, and their work, in a special series of editorial features collected on our World Creative Rankings hub. And if you’d like to get your hands on the entire World Creative Rankings dataset, you can pre-order our full PDF report.

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Kyle Miller