Online dating site Zoosk wanted more than broad awareness, it was after brand "fame." To do this, the company moved away from TV and looked towards a more conversational platform — YouTube. It created a YouTube channel and used TrueView and standard in-stream ads for its #HeartFriend and #MountainMan campaigns. This let Zoosk place its audience at the heart of its marketing, give people the authority to choose their ads, and hold deeper conversations. The results were clear: staggering lifts in unaided awareness, consideration and preference. In short, fame. Zoosk hasn't run a TV ad since.


  • Build unaided awareness amongst 25-35 year olds


  • Ran TrueView in-stream and standard in-stream ads on YouTube for both its #HeartFriend and #MountainMan campaigns
  • Conducted research studies measuring the brand impact of its YouTube campaigns


  • #HeartFriend led to 318% lift in unaided awareness and 52% lift in consideration intent
  • Boosted organic views on brand channel during #HeartFriend campaign, with nonadvertising views reaching 6x the number of views in the same period in the previous year
  • #MountainMan led to increased awareness of Zoosk and its online advertising, 56% lift in intent to use and recommend the site, and 80% lift in site preference for Zoosk
June 2013

The quest for fame

As Jane Barrett, Director of Marketing & Communications at Zoosk, described, Zoosk has a very specific goal: to build "fame." For them, broad awareness isn't adequate; their goal is unaided awareness.

Zoosk originally sought fame through TV ads, but in 2012, Zoosk wanted to refresh their creative and look towards a more conversational platform. As Jane put, "We were looking for an opportunity to have more dialogue. The ads didn't have to be in your face." Zoosk turned to online pre-roll formats to target their audience of 25-35 year olds.

#HeartFriend campaign builds fame

In December 2012, Zoosk launched #HeartFriend, building on the idea of a woman having a conversation with her heart. Zoosk leveraged YouTube's TrueView in-stream ads, which allowed audiences to skip the ad after 5 seconds, and YouTube's standard in-stream ads, which forced audiences to view the entire ad. With this, an InsightExpress research study established an exposed group that had seen either of Zoosk's ads, and a control group that had seen none, and was selected based on propensity matching to the exposed group.

The results were staggering, particularly for unaided awareness. Compared to the control group, exposure to the TrueView or standard in-stream ad led to:

  • Significant increase (318% lift) in unaided awareness
  • Significant increase (52% lift) in consideration intent

In other words, YouTube ads delivered Zoosk's goal of increasing fame, but with greater efficiency and accountability than when Zoosk had leveraged TV ads.

We realized that we didn't actually have to force the views. People were choosing to watch the ad anyways.

With TrueView specifically, Jane notes, "we realized that we didn't actually have to force the views; people were choosing to watch the ad anyways." With its compelling made-for-digital creative, the #HeartFriend campaign even boosted organic views on Zoosk's YouTube channel, with non-advertising views from December 2012 - January 2013 multiplying to 6x the number of views Zoosk had obtained between December 2011 - January 2012.

#MountainMan campaign draws even greater awareness and preference

Later in 2013, Zoosk put another ad out, titled #MountainMan. Another InsightExpress study was set up, but this time, Zoosk wanted to find out not only if they generated unaided awareness, but also if their audiences knew Zoosk and recognized its advertising following exposure to their YouTube ads.

Compared to control groups established by propensity matching, respondents who had been exposed to the TrueView or standard in-stream ads showed:

  • Increased awareness of Zoosk and its online advertising (24-57% lift in various awareness metrics)
  • Greater intent to use and recommend the site (56% lift)
  • Greater site preference for Zoosk against its competitors (80% lift)

In short, the YouTube ads this time not only brought fame, but also advertising awareness, consideration, intent, and preference.

A bright future

Zoosk to date has over 100 videos on their YouTube channel, with a total of 24 million video views. Their #HeartFriend ad has landed them in publications like Ad Age, Adweek, and TIME, and has single-handedly obtained over 14 million views. Given the effectiveness of platforms such as YouTube, Zoosk has not run TV advertising in the past 1.5 years.

Speaking further about Zoosk's YouTube strategy, Jane emphasizes that YouTube not only plays a role as a paid media platform, but is also an effective way to have conversations and guide users through the conversion process. For instance, Zoosk deliberately points its audience to their YouTube videos rather than their sign-up page. "It's a little optimistic to expect people to sign up after a 30 second ad. You'd want to understand more about our brand and have more of a dialogue... YouTube houses everything in one place where we can send people to," Jane explained.

With YouTube, Zoosk placed their audience at the heart of their campaign, gave them the authority to choose their ads, and conducted deeper conversations with them through Zoosk's YouTube channel. The results are clear — lifts in unaided awareness, consideration and preference. Zoosk has built fame.