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Bumble apologises for celibacy ads: ‘We made a mistake’

‘Instead of bringing joy and humour, we unintentionally did the opposite,’ statement says

Olivia Hebert
Los Angeles
Tuesday 14 May 2024 20:55
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Serena Williams Bumble commercial

Bumble addressed their controversial celibacy billboards with an apology on TikTok.

The dating app company issued a mea culpa after their latest ad campaign received a swift backlash from users online, with many taking issue with the campaign’s slogan making a case against celibacy. Although the marketing team had been aiming for a tone of cheeky provocation, it ultimately didn’t land how they wanted it to.

“You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer,” one billboard read, which Uncut Gems actor Julia Fox took issue with in the comments of a TikTok carousel showing images of the new campaign. She wrote, “2.5 years of celibacy and never been better tbh.”

Within a day, the company took to TikTok to apologise for the ad. The statement noted that it wasn’t their intention to offend, but to simply approach the topic of sex and dating with “joy and humour”.

“We made a mistake,” the company statement read. “Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating, and instead of bringing joy and humour, we unintentionally did the opposite.”

They continued, “Some of the perspectives we heard were: from those who shared that celibacy is the only answer when reproductive rights are continuously restricted; from others for whom celibacy is a choice; and from the asexual community, for whom celibacy can have a particular meaning or importance, which should not be diminished.”

“We are also aware that for many, celibacy may be brought on by harm or trauma,” they added. “For years, Bumble has passionately stood up for women and marginalised communities, and their right to fully exercise personal choice. We didn’t live up to these values with this campaign and we apologise for the harm it caused.”

The company noted that they planned on taking down the billboards and go back to the drawing board to create a campaign more representative of their brand’s message. They added that they will be making a donation to the National Domestic Violence hotline as well as other organisations to demonstrate their support for survivors and marginalised groups affected by abuse.

They will also allow these organisations to display the ad of their choice for the remainder of the reserved billboard time to replace the controversial billboards the company has taken down.

“Please keep speaking up and telling us how we can be better,” the company concluded. “We care about you and will always be here for you.”

The apology has been well-received online, with internet users flocking to the comment section of the company’s statement to commend their words.

“This is actually a good response usually brands don’t take accountability and on top of that Bumble is donating!” one user gushed.

“Honestly best corporate apology I’ve ever seen,” someone else added. “In today’s world someone is always offended and this is genuine representation of learning from one’s mistakes.

“Classy and receptive PR damage control,” another person wrote, before jokingly adding: “However, the bear and I just signed a 3-year lease on a cottage in the wilderness.”

Others were not so readily convinced that the company’s apology was genuine.

“On paper, it’s a well-tailored apology,” one person commented. “And it will win some people back. But the fact that NONE of the decision-makers knew – or cared – how the ad could be received after ‘research’ is a huge red flag.”

“The great Bumble fumble will never be forgiven or forgotten,” someone else noted. “Bumble will just have to settle with the lack of users.”

Bumble’s controversial ad campaign comes on the heels of the company announcing a rebrand in light of the frustrating dating climate. At the time, Bumble’s new CEO, Lidiane Jones, revealed to Fortune that she was reconsidering having women initiate interaction on the app, despite the feature being the brand’s signature.

With their upcoming relaunch, Bumble aims to improve upon the already saturated dating app landscape, contending with companies such as Hinge and Tinder, which regularly play with new payment structures and features to bring people back onto their platform.

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