OPW INTERVIEW -- Dec 27, 2006 -- Match.com has a new look, new services and a new ad campaign. I interviewed Jim Safka to find out more. - Mark Brooks
What proportion of your advertising budget will be dedicated toward TV advertising in Q1, 2007?
We have a big advertising mix in store for 2007. We’ll be spending more on advertising in 2007 than we have ever spent in the history of Match.com. It will be a good balance of prime time television, network radio, print advertising in magazines such as People, US and Vanity Fair and the women’s books like Glamour and Vogue. Ultimately, it’s going to be an integrated mix of advertising that will collectively end up being more then we’ve ever done in the history of the company. The majority of the campaign will be on TV followed by an equal split between radio and print. We will also have a great deal of online advertising as well, including of course, our partnerships like MSN and AOL.
I love the new ads. Why black and white?
We think that black and white is extremely classy and from an image standpoint it feels even more sophisticated. Cecil B. DeMille once said, “When taking portraits black and whites are more real then color.” With this campaign we are trying to capture the inner spirit of our subscribers and show them in the best possible way. It’s not in the sense of a makeover, but instead we wanted to capture their beauty - their inner beauty - and we think black and white is a great way to do it. We haven’t seen this type of photography or this style used in this category before, so we know it will be different. We think it will be classier and fresh.
Why did you choose these particular people, and which ad is your personal favorite?
We contacted Match.com subscribers throughout the country and found people in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Texas. There was a gentleman from Seattle and several people were from Florida as well. Match.com flew the 26 people selected out to Los Angeles to do this shoot with a world famous photographer named Peggy Sirota. You can see her other work at www.peggysirota.com. She’s photographed the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Seal and many other famous celebrities for magazine covers. She recently photographed Tiger Woods.
Peggy shot our members for online, print and television. What was fascinating about the process was that we just didn’t line them up for a photo shoot – she really got to know these people and what drives them and what they’re looking for, not just in a relationship, but as a human being. I think you’ll find that she really captured the essence of who these people are. We didn’t want to change who they are, we really wanted to capture what was special about them. Each one of our members is just brilliant in their own way.
In terms of a favorite, my favorite just might be the woman with user name DanishBeauty22, and she’s a widow who is on Match.com today. She’s 71 year’s old and has to be one of the better looking 71-year old on the planet. She’s very full of life with many diverse interests. In the TV ad of her singing, she trips up a little bit and you will see that we’re not just trying to capture people’s perfections, but we’re capturing their imperfections. The part where she messes up a bit makes the whole spot just adorable. It captures the human element that is representative of the whole campaign. Some of our members are blogging about their experience at www.match.com/okay.
How are you guiding people to take better photographs, which capture them currently and accurately?
People are going to be able to see all 26 members and their photographs not only on our advertising campaign but also on Match.com. We think when other members see how gorgeous these people look, yet how very real they look, they’re going to want to step up their game. I often say there are a lot of people who seem to spend more time getting ready to go to the supermarket on a Sunday, than they do in putting together their profile that ends up on Match.com.
Being on Match.com is the equivalent of being on a stage at Madison Square Garden where thousands of people will be looking at you. And if anybody were to get up on that stage, they would have the best possible representation of themselves. So part of the idea of this campaign is you can do it yourself.
We’re going to give our members the capabilities to capture themselves in a way they can be really proud of. We worked really hard to find a person that we thought could help us do this and we found a real rising star in a guy by the name of Jay Manuel. He is on the show America’s Next Top Model. Jay is now the Director of Style for Match.com where he helps people with everything from photography to writing a great profile.
With Jay, we created what we call a “Portrait Tool Kit” and you can see this right on the home page of Match.com or at www.match.com/portrait. Jay takes you through the dos and don’ts of what it takes to create a great portrait of yourself through video and text. He’s got advice on what to wear, how to style yourself, how to pick a good headline, how to give great examples of what you like and what you don’t like, and what you’re looking for and what you’re not. We think when people go through the process of really engaging with the Portrait Tool Kit, it’s a major confidence booster and it will give them basic tricks and tips. So you’ll be in a position to create a representation of yourself where when you take a step back and look at it you’ll go, “Wow I’m proud to be that person.”
You’re introducing a VIP service. Can you tell us more about that?
Match.com has a pilot in Dallas called Match Platinum and can be found at http://platinum.match.com. Match Platinum is a breakthrough new service that is geared towards somebody who is an active professional, who is busy, and who loves the idea of Match expanding their possibilities. This person also wants a concierge-like service level and the guidance of a personal matchmaker.
The difference in what we’re doing versus what anyone else has done in the history of this category is our matchmakers have access to the Match.com profile base of 15 million members. They sort through those people and have preferred access to them. The matchmaker will actively screen the potential people to make sure there’s a good fit, validate their identities, and conduct a background check. By the time they go on a date, a Match Platinum member will have a highly qualified candidate. We see this service as appealing for people who are particularly busy or who want a little more privacy.
We also have total transparency around this service. When you go to Match Platinum, you will see the matchmakers who work for us along with a profile for each of them, and a blog about their experience of being a matchmaker for Match Platinum. Our members can see their history, philosophy and get a sense of which matchmaker would work best for them. We really stand behind this product. We’re piloting it in Dallas during the month of January with aggressive expansion plans to follow. We intend to be in the top twenty markets throughout the United States before the year is over. We’ll also be piloting this in several international markets as well, specifically Japan and the UK.
What will people pay for this service and how many dates will they get?
We’re still in a pilot in Dallas, so we’re still working out the exact price points. But I will say this, the initial members that sign up are going to get the most extraordinary service. We want to have great word of mouth around this product. Whoever signs up for this service right out of the gate, in addition to having the matchmaker working on their behalf, will have me personally working on their behalf to make sure they end up with a great result. Our expectation is that we will over deliver on the value and learn how to become great at this service. Once we’ve discovered what it takes to deliver that level of service that customers are going to expect, we’ll have a sense of what it costs our company and we can establish the appropriate price point.
Do you envision that price point would be over $1,000 for a year?
That depends. My goal is to make this service as accessible as possible to a broad as possible audience. Again, we haven’t locked in on a price point and we are likely to have different levels of price points as well.
How is the Match Anonymous Calling Program coming along for you?
matchTalk has been an extraordinary success. Since we’ve launched it nationally the number of people using it has exceeded our original forecasts. I read our suggestions and comments box every day and the feedback from our customers has really been categorically positive. This is another feature that Match.com has delivered that adds value to the overall experience with no additional cost to the customer.
It’s consistent with how we run the overall business – we’ve continually innovating, continually adding new people to the site, and adding new functionalities to the site. It’s what we have to do as the market leader to grow the category. So now we have Dr. Phil, a 6 month guarantee, a new Portrait Toolkit, matchTalk so people can talk on the phone anonymously, and we have more than 60,000 people who are signing up for the service every single day. You start to put all this together and you see the flywheel is not just picking up momentum, the business is going better then ever.