Praise be to Bumble

This week I excitedly took a photo of an ad on the side of a bus. Yep, that’s right — I waited for taxis and trucks to clear around it so I could snap the whole ad and, what’s more, post it immediately to Instagram. I don’t think I’ve ever felt compelled to do that before — except if I spotted a campaign I’d worked on and wanted to keep it for posterity (posterity, not Instagram — I don’t think I’ve made a bus side campaign I loved as much as this particular ad, to my shame).

The ad was for Bumble, the dating app that is based around women making the first move and thereby avoiding being inundated with sleazy propositions. And the ad read: “Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry. (then find someone you actually like)”.

And I had to read it twice because I couldn’t quite believe how excellent it was. It stopped this cynical old gal who’s been in the industry for ten years right in her tracks. And I properly laughed, and wanted to share it with pretty much everyone I knew (ie my approx 43 followers on Instagram, ahem).

There are many brilliant things about the ad, like the fact the “then find someone you actually like”, which is, let’s face it, the product sell here — they want you to use their dating app after all — is way smaller than the rest of the headline. Whilst I’m sure they want to nudge you to download Bumble, this ad isn’t predominantly about dating. It’s not yelling at you to get on with finding a life partner because, wtf else are you gonna do with your life?* It’s not coaxing you to its app with proprietary algorithms or the belief your future husband could be in this train carriage if you’d only get off your work emails and go chat to him*. It’s an ad about the disparity between societal expectations of women and the reality of what we’re really up to with our lives. And it’s flippin funny, which helps.

Now, us lot at V Team were lucky enough to grow up with parental progressive-types who were unlikely to burden us with the CEO-marrying-weight-of-expectation Bumble references here. But we know this isn’t the case for all young women; moreover, we’re all too aware how society at large still places an expectation on many women that they will need to find a man to be their “breadwinner” whilst their career takes a back-seat to family commitments — contrary to the reality of many individuals’ actual relationships.

We’ve all been caught in that horrible conversation at a party or work event where a stranger assumes a male other-half is the one whose career is worth talking about. Or, when said stranger just fails to believe you do what you do when they finally do enquire. At a launch event a few years ago, my (female) friend (a CEO and founder) was asked repeatedly to clarify what she did by an incredulous middle-aged man who couldn’t get his head around the fact she was a key advisor to the business whose launch we were celebrating that night (“adviser…on the look of the place, design, things like that?”** Nope, Mr Default Man, an adviser on the business. Probably the one whose know-how paid for that champagne you’re quaffing. She didn’t say that, because she’s a lovely person, but I said it (angrily and loudly in my head).

And this is why the Bumble ad is so brilliant. Because it tacitly acknowledges the fact women are somehow still assumed and expected to focus more on finding a partner than men; that women are more likely to be the financially dependent partner in a relationship than a man; and that, progressive parents or no, our generation has a whole fundamentally sees this whole thing differently to those who have gone before us.

But — and this is why it made me want to fist pump the smoggy South London air — it also celebrates the fact we do a bazillion things in our lives other than sit around thinking about our relationship status, one of which might be, y’know, becoming a superstar CEO.

* yes, we’re looking at you, other dating apps

** not that we’re downplaying design — design’s our thing! Only this girl does NUMBERS and makes companies a sh** tonne of money, and sometimes Default Man finds it hard to understand women do that too.

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