What We Can Learn from Match.com’s Brilliant 2020 Ad
December 2020 brought murky skies and bone-biting chills in the air. I found myself forgoing my daily trail runs and hikes. Unless I was dumping trash or picking up my mail, I spent most of my time shut-in. Feeling the weight of never-ending quarantine, I’d given up on productivity. I wanted to tune out the world and binge-watch crappy television. I needed an escape. Nestled in my jammies, chips at the ready, I climbed under my blankets and turned on my TV.
The screen came to life with an image of the Devil, waiting for someone under a picturesque bridge in Central Park. I hate commercials and tend to tune them out or fast forward through them, but this ad drew me in immediately. The demon under the bridge is, in fact, Satan. And, he’s waiting for a date. The sweet opening notes of Taylor Swift’s re-recorded “Love Story” play gently in the background.
Bittersweet laughter erupts from deep within me. When the 88-second ad ends, I want more. I find the video on YouTube. I watch countless times. I share with friends and on social media. Even now, four months later, no campaign from 2020 sticks with me in quite the same way as “Satan and 2020.”
By now, most of the watching world has seen the ad — a brilliant 4th quarter campaign by the dating site, Match.com. According to www.ypulse.com, the original spot stands at 11 million views on YouTube, and its sequel has garnered 6.6 million views. A tweet promoting the video from Ryan Reynolds’ account has 6.4 million views. In contrast, the campaign video launched by Match.com in their 3rd quarter has only 224 thousand views.
How did the inception of the ad occur? How does its satire manage to resonate with so many? Did the campaign cause Match Group, the dating site’s parent company, to see revenue skyrocket? My intrigue spurred me to dive into the rabbit hole of research.
“Match is responsible for bringing millions of people together, and even in this dumpster fire of a year, people somehow find love on Match.”
–Ryan Reynolds, in a public statement about the Match.com 2020 campaign
Ryan Reynolds — amazing actor, brilliant comedic talent, easy on the eyes, and husband of the lovely Blake Lively, is also a marketing genius. After purchasing and increasing the Aviation Gin and Mint Mobile profits, he joined the board of the Match Group, Inc in July 2020. The Match Group also owns OkCupid and the “edgier” dating sites: Plenty of Fish, Tinder, Hinge.
Reynolds came to the board with many ideas on presenting a fresh take on dating to potential and current site members. And his content studio, Maximum Effort, generated plans for future ad campaigns. (Seriously, is there anything this guy can’t do?) The Maximum Effort homepage reads:
Maximum Effort makes movies, tv series, content and cocktails for the personal amusement of Hollywood Star Ryan Reynolds. We occasionally release them to the general public.
It’s unclear whether the idea of Satan and 2020 dating came from Reynolds’ wacky mind or one of his content-generating staff. However, Reynolds wrote both the first Satan ad, A Match Made in Hell, and its follow-up nod to When Harry Met Sally. Reynolds’ zeitgeist ways allowed him to mock our collective misery in a way that comforts and resonates.
“I filtered out joy, happiness, toilet paper, and reason.”
-Satan on his match.com search, 2020 match.com commercial
As Satan waits patiently under the bridge, a perky blonde approaches.
“Satan?” she asks.
“2–0–2–0?” he responds.
“You can call me 2020.”
The ad follows 2020 and Satan on their romantic journey. They watch a movie in an abandoned theater. They use the equipment at a gym closed due to COVID-19. They hoard toilet paper from public restrooms. A picnic at an abandoned football stadium, adorned with WTF signs painted in the end zones, shows us how close they’ve become. 2020 poses in front of Satan as they take an on-the-nose selfie in front of a dumpster fire.
And, as their day of love comes to a close, they snuggle together on a park bench and watch apocalyptic meteors rain their fury down on earth. “I just don’t want this year to end,” Satan sighs.
“Who would?” 2020 agrees as she rests her head on the Devil’s shoulder. The screen fades to black with one final message from match.com: Make 2021 Your Year.
And, the commercial continues to make waves four months after its release.
The rancid pile of feces that encased last year, nicely summed up in less than two minutes. It’s funny because it’s true. The A Match Made in Hell ad provided a short cathartic avenue I didn’t know I needed.
A Glowing Success for Match Group
“Sometimes you have to make space to laugh. Ryan and the team at Maximum Effort created a story that speaks to this hellish year, while acknowledging the incredible resilience of singles.”
-Public Statement from Match CMO Ayesha Gilarde
Global media brand Ad Age voted “When Satan Met 2020” the 14th best ad of 2020. Countless magazines, national morning shows, and news channels devoted coverage to the campaign. The ad went viral.
The pandemic already caused site membership and revenue to soar without much exerted effort from the Match marketing team. According to an August 2020 MarketWatch article by Jeremy C. Owens, MTCH — the stock market listing of the Match Group — saw stock prices rise in the second quarter, and gains occur where pre-pandemic losses were anticipated. As the year continued, Match Group enjoyed steady growth but took off again after the early December release of Satan and 2020. Match Group’s 2020 4th quarter saw an increase of $10,000,000 from 2019’s 4th quarter.
I spent the entire pandemic in single mode. And, for the most part, I was grateful. I relished the fact that I wasn’t trapped with “Mr. Wrong.” But, in the most hardcore moments of the statewide shutdown, I longed for companionship. If I had to dive into a dumpster fire, I’d rather get burned with someone by my side.
Long ago, I decided online dating wasn’t my niche. But the “When Satan Met 2020” ad spurred me on to strongly consider joining match.com. The site grew a fun and empathetic appeal I didn’t feel it signified pre-pandemic. The brilliance of Ryan Reynold’s writing allowed the dating site to shine. The ad’s satire can resonate with anyone who hated all aspects of the past year. And, revenue increases for match.com’s parent company prove the ad is a hit.
*Disclaimer: I know I should’ve written this four months ago. Unfortunately, the overwhelming urge to write the article didn’t hit me until last weekend. Hence, the self-publication. I still feel good about what I wrote, though!