Online dating site rapped for misleading ads

Dating website has been slammed by the advertising watchdog for misleading claims in its television campaign.

The site, which launched in the UK in 2008, ran a TV campaign showing eight couples with onscreen text showing their names and the date on which they were matched by eHarmony.

A voiceover stated: “It’s no surprise that over 4 million Americans get married each year. But what might surprise you is that 2% of those newlyweds said they met on eHarmony. And now we’re in the UK.”

Five viewers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority to challenge the claim that 2% of US newlyweds met via the site. Another three complainants, who had attempted to use the service, said the ad was misleading because it did not make clear there were “significant conditions” attached to obtaining free matches.

EHarmony said the 2% figure was extrapolated from an online study of 7,000 respondents undertaken by an independent market research company. It added that the only eligibility restrictions at the outset of its in-depth questionnaire for users were regarding age and marital status.

The ASA ruled eHarmony’s ad was misleading because it had made an “absolute claim” that suggested a “definitive figure” of marriages based on an extrapolated 2007 online survey. It said the ad also failed to make clear that in 20% of cases it was unable to find a match for people who registered.

Sean Cornwell, VP International Markets at eHarmony, said: “We believe the TV ads accurately portrayed the eHarmony service, but we respect the ASA’s request for more detail. We are amending the ads to indicate that eHarmony does have some eligibility requirements for users and to clarify that the claim that an average of 236 eHarmony users married each day in America is based on a study conducted by Harris Interactive for eHarmony in 2007. The ASA did not disagree with the results of the research. “

Readers' comments (2)

  • I was skeptical to about online dating, but found a great boyfriend at

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  • To my best knowledge:

    * eHarmony is only supported by a big marketing budget and not by serious scientific evidence.

    * eHarmony DOES NOT HAVE any Scientifc Paper peer reviewed by Academics from different Universities (public scrutiny of findings) showing its matching algorithm can match prospective partners who will have more stable and satisfying relationships than couples matched by chance, astrological destiny, personal preferences, searching on one's own, or other technique as the control group.

    * eHarmony is in the range of 3 or 4 persons as highly compatible per 1,000 persons screened, the same range any person can achieve by searching on one's own or mutual filtering methods (recommendation engines).

    * eHarmony has been always the same:
    1) Big5 to assess personality.
    2) Dyadic Adjustment Scale (invented by Dr. Graham B. Spanier in 1976) to calculate compatibility (similarity) between prospective mates.
    3) Guided Communication Process as an appendix of its main matching algorithm. The Guided Communication Process is a mutual filtering step.

    If eHarmony has 20,000,000 active members
    suppose eHarmony is responsible of 300,000 marriages since 2001
    and 700,000 dyads in long-term relationships.

    eHarmony's Success Rate is only 2,000,000 persons / 20,000,000 == 0.1

    eHarmony's Success Rate == 10%

    90% of eHarmony's members are going to fail in finding someone highly compatible!
    The majority of its members are not going to achieve a long term relationship with commitment (or marriage).

    Fernando Ardenghi.
    Buenos Aires.

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