Serena Williams, Bumble, and Women’s Empowerment

Bumble 2019 Superbowl

Bumble is one of a seemingly endless list of online dating apps, but it has one primary unique quality, it requires that women be the one to initiate and lead the online communication. Dating apps have become more widely used and accepted as legitimate ways of forming a romantic relationship and with this broader acceptance we are beginning to see the advertising for these apps creep from seedier locations into more mainstream mediums.  The Bumble advertisement during the 2019 Superbowl is undoubtedly the most mainstream ad for a dating app thus far and presents an excellent example of some broader principles of advertising.

Creating an emotional trigger is one of the most effective tools in the toolbox of advertisers and this Bumble advertisement is flush with emotional triggers. The commercial begins with a clear shot of Serena Williams standing in a tennis court. In this shot Serena is immediately recognizable to even the most casual sports fan. Using such a recognizable figure is one of the ways that a commercial attempts to grab your attention. In the next few scenes you see a young and meek Serena contrasted against the mature and powerful superstar Serena. The voice-over is Serena herself as she describes what it took for her to stand out from others. This contrast is intended to make you think about the struggles that a young Serena must have gone through on her journey to super stardom. Thinking about the struggles of a child is a huge emotional trigger for many people and is another attempt at your attention. The commercial begins its close by showing a few shots of Serena, not as a tennis star, but as a successful (and married) businesswoman. Presumably, the idea behind this closing is to lend credence to online dating apps as a legitimate means of entry into romantic relationships. The commercial ends with a simple shot of the Bumble logo and where you would best find the app for download.

The individual scenes in the commercial hit on a few specific methods for hooking your attention, but the broader theme and tone of the commercial also are effective at grabbing your attention. Piggybacking on social movements is also an effective attention grabber, especially social movements that are in vogue. Women lead the conversation on the Bumble app and so the entire tone of the commercial is recalling the broader themes of Feminism. Framing the Bumble app in the wider context of women’s empowerment is intended to encourage use of the app by people who value this important social movement.

The commercial definitely grabs your attention and is wonderfully brief, but it suffers from the same problems many others commercials appear to suffer from. As you watch you find yourself wondering, “What the hell is this ad for?” While I find many of the themes found in the commercial important, I just cannot seem to reign in my skepticism. Can a Superbowl advertisement really be a part of a social movement? Maybe I am just being cynical but I am finding it hard to believe that the interests align.

By Carson Fleetwood, Business Major IUPUC

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