A phone with an App Store selection of the dating app Bumble is pictured Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Oklahoma City Source: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File

Bumble's Billboard Ads Sneered at Celibacy as an Alternative to Dating – and the Company Got Stung

David Hamilton READ TIME: 2 MIN.

The dating app Bumble got stung after running billboard ads that appeared to sneer at celibacy as an alternative to meeting people online.

On Monday, the company backtracked and apologized for billboards that bore the message "You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer" juxtaposed against an introduction to "the new Bumble." The app launched a brand redesign in April in hopes of reviving user interest, which had been lagging.

Women on social media castigated the company for suggesting celibacy isn't a valid personal choice. Some online critics read the slogan as reflecting patriarchal notions that women should be willing to have sex with men even if they don't want to.

In an apology posted on Instagram, Bumble said it is removing ads that it called a mistaken attempt to "lean into a community frustrated by modern dating." It said the company has long stood up for women and their right to "fully exercise personal choice," but admitted that the ad campaign didn't live up to those values and apologized "for the harm it caused."

The company also plans donations to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and other organizations to support global efforts to "support women, marginalized communities, and those impacted by abuse." The company said it will also offer the billboard space to these same organizations for ads of their choice.

Bumble did not respond to inquiries seeking information on how many billboards were involved in the campaign and where they were located. It remains unclear whether the ads also ran in other media.

The dating app company has been going through a rough patch. Its shares have fallen steadily since last July, dropping roughly 45% over that time amid concerns over its ability to reach younger users. In February, it laid off 350 employees, roughly 30% of its workforce, in February when it announced plans to revamp its app in order to make it more attractive to Generation Z.

by David Hamilton

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