One of my best friends, and an avid supporter of my blog, sent me the link to this fairly amusing Advertising Age column Love for Sale: What Marketers Can Learn From Online Dating by Matt Brennock.
Brennock’s introduction includes the following paragraph.
“Those looking for love online may be lacking in fancy marketing degrees…and, more than likely, a healthy sense of reality. But give them due props for going about the business of selling with a similar acumen to most seasoned marketers. We can all learn a thing or two from the brave and the crazy, riding down, down into that cyber tunnel of love, for roughly $18 a month, or about $3 a whack job.”
I don’t consider myself crazy, or brave, for taking the very small leap necessary to join an online dating site. And while the writer’s arguments about how marketers can learn from people like me are intriguing, I’m not sure the best way to go about starting the column is to insult the thousands of people who don’t think it’s so very strange, or unrealistic, to find a date online.
Brennock follows up his introduction with a bullet point containing this line, “The vast majority of people out there are hurting, confused, bitter, uncertain, cynical and, yes, crazy. So, once you’ve weeded out those potential targets, you’re left with only a small percentage of people who are at their keyboards with arms wide open.”
I’m guessing he isn’t spot on with this one. The friends I have who have successfully, or unsuccessfully, tried online dating have gone into it believing it was one more way to find a booty call, a date, or a relationship. I would not have described the online-daters who are friends or friends of friends as any of the six adjectives Brennock lists above. I don’t disagree that some people who online date fall into those categories, I just don’t think, without evidence, the sad, pathetic group should be claimed the “vast majority.”
Further down the page, the writer started to make a bit more sense to me. I am fully aware that when it comes to my online profile, a man’s first impression is based on the nine photos I have posted. And I agree that knowing the argument for why that is can help marketers.
On this subject Brennock writes, “We are all biologically programmed to be ‘about looks.’ Apple has built a small empire based on its remarkable aesthetic.”
I work online. I often hear co-workers gripping about the low quality ads that appear on sites they frequent. A close-up of belly fat or a dancing hot dog don’t do the trick with my 20 or so cubicle mates. You’d think good marketers would start taking some lessons from Apple and clean up their look.
Brennock nears the ends his strange ode to online dating with the following: “Forget metrics and science and whatever else they teach in business school. While the tools of communication change, the truth will always come down to this: We are just people trying to connect with other people in the same way we always have, whether we’re selling love or linen sheets.”
And on that point, I can agree.
Prior to my entrance into the world of online dating, I took part in a heated debate on whether a guy “lost points” if he didn’t offer to pay for the meal on the first date. The catch, to me, was the date in reference was set up through an online dating site. I argued that no guy should lose points if he accepted an offer from the girl to pay half. I was forcibly shut down by the three women and one man who took part in the debate. This was a few months ago, so their arguments are hazy, but the gist of it was that for reasons ranging from chivalry to respect to the idea that men must win women over, the guy should offer and pay for the first dinner in full, otherwise suffer the points loss.
A friend who I told about the discussion spoke to a friend of hers who had some experience with online dating. This friend of a friend agreed with me. Her argument, which was more valid than any I made, was that both parties, male and female, paid the money and sought the dates provided by dating sites. It wasn’t as if the couple met in a bar and the guy requested the girl’s number. If while online dating the guy was always expected to pay in full he could go through his bank account damn quick, especially if was having some success at getting dates.
When it comes to paying, I’ve always been the split-it-down-the-middle type. It’s not because I’m an uber feminist. The three boyfriends I’ve had made the same amount of money as I did. It didn’t seem fair that because they were men, they needed to bankroll our activities as a couple.
On the flip side, I can’t say I am not flattered when a man treats.
A co-worker who encouraged me to sign up for online dating said when the check comes along she always asks, “Can I help with that?” The phrase isn’t as specific as saying “Do you want to split it?” and, according to her, her date always appreciated that she offered, and 19 times out of 20, said something like, “No but thanks for asking.”
When I come to the “time to pay up” crossroads, I have to admit, despite valid arguments, I don’t think I’ll dock a man points if he accepts my offer to help. To me the test will be whether or not he asks me out again.
I received the following email (word-for-word) yesterday from a guy friend. I had, only an hour earlier, expressed my frustration to him about the online dating service I joined a week ago.
“LESS SPORTS, MORE SKIN.
OK. At least a little less sports (or lead with something else) and you probably should put your body type up. Also, a less frumpy head to toe picture would probably help. Your profile reads “nice, sweet, friendly, heavy set softball player who will make a really good friend. Great target for dorks, scumbags and 50 year old men”
OK, it’s not really that bad, but I am trying to make a point. Sun dress, flip flops, no hat. (Or Jeans, t-shirt, no hat) That’s what the fellas need to know.”
What girlfriend would have ever looked up my profile and said “MORE SKIN.”
Within three hours of removing all “frumpy” photos of me in a baseball hat, and adding a few full body shots, I had been contacted by 5 men, two of who would qualify as very decent.
Post-critique, I am officially on an online dating roll. And now I know to never navigate the online dating waters without consulting one of my boys.