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Bumble dating app removes ads mocking celibacy after backlash

Bumble CEO on app safety and dating trends
Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd discusses app safety, 2023 dating trends 05:33

The popular dating app Bumble is canceling an ad campaign that derides celibacy to promote its matchmaking service. It has also issued an apology.

The company ran a series of ads in commercials and on billboards mocking celibacy as an alternative to dating as it launched a rebrand of the company and introduced what it is calling "the new Bumble." 

Tag lines included "You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer," and "Thou shalt not give up on dating and become a nun." 

Bumble had long distinguished itself from other dating apps by requiring that women make the first move; it has since reversed course on its former signature feature. 

On Monday, Bumble addressed the controversial anti-celibacy ads, saying in a statement on Instagram, "We made a mistake. Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating, and instead of bringing joy and humor, we unintentionally did the opposite." 

The company acknowledged the backlash from individuals who choose to be celibate, people who identify as asexual and other groups with whom the ads failed to resonate.

"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, one that we respect; and from the asexual community, for whom celibacy can have a particular meaning and importance, which should not be diminished. We are also aware that, for many, celibacy may be brought on by harm or trauma," Bumble said. 

Bumble said it is removing anti-celibacy messaging from its global marketing efforts. It is also making a donation to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and other organizations that support marginalized communities, the company said. 

And where the anti-celibacy billboards once were, Bumble is offering the ad space to these advocacy groups. 

The Hotline is "thankful our partner, Bumble, recognizes the impact their campaign has had and is taking responsibility. Their contribution to The Hotline will provide support to those affected by relationship abuse across the U.S," the group told CBS MoneyWatch.

A spokesperson for the group added that it is "evaluating the opportunity for the billboard space."

Bumble rolled out the campaign as it struggles to grow its user base and attract younger members, who increasingly say they prefer to interact with other people who are looking for romantic connections on social media apps like Instagram or TikTok. Bumble shares have dropped about 45% since last July. 

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