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An Irritated Nation Yearns for an End to eHarmony's TanyaLee and Joshua Ads

Dating website eHarmony has put its $90 million media account up for competitive bid, which might be the perfect opportunity to gently remind the client that a lot of people really, really hate eHarmony's ads. It's an interesting brand management dilemma: What do you do if your ads are effective in driving business, but are annoying as heck to the general population?

If you've watched TV anytime since 2006, you've seen eHarmony's ads. The most famous one features fashion store owner TanyaLee, who was matched on "29 dimensions of compatibility" with her husband Joshua. TanyaLee is actually a real person and has a cutesy blog here.

There's nothing specifically wrong with TanyaLee or the ad ... which seems to be one of the reasons it grates so much: No one can quite put their finger on why they want to shoot the TV when TanyaLee comes on, floating in slow-motion across her showroom. They just want to pull the trigger.

TanyaLee seems nice enough. Pretty but not perfect (her nose is kinda lumpy). Owns her own business (she was just too busy to date). And she's embarrassed to admit she was internet dating (although everyone does it). Yet there are lengthy diatribes of anti-TanyaLee and eHarmony sentiment all over the web. You can read them here and here and here and here and here and here. One thread begins:

They are god damned vile and irritating as all hell. A bunch of yuppies, model couples, terrible music, hokey love stories.... egad. Where's a psychopath with a hook for a hand when you need one?
eHarmony seems to be dimly aware that its ads are disliked by the non-dating public. The comments are turned off on all the company's YouTube channel ads -- a sure sign that the masses were unkind.

Separately, Joshua did his wife no favors when he used her blog to write a statement opposing gay marriage. You can read a copy of the now-deleted post here. She had to apologize for him, and the "90 percent" of her friends whom she says are gay (she's in the fashion biz, remember?). Predictably, people were irked that Joshua was promoting the most marriage-oriented of all the web dating brands, and yet opposed marriage for anyone not quite like him.

My personal theory is that eHarmony's couples seem perfect but refuse to mention anything about what is probably the most important "dimension of compatibility" of all: sex. All the ads blather on about life-sharing and love and emotional connection and talking for hours and hours, but there's nary a wink to the topic of physicality. Sure, in an extended version of their ad Joshua says:

She's here now so we're going to hit it full force.
But he's referring to their mutual zest for life, not what you're thinking about.

Only the media-buying side of eHarmony's account is in play (it's currently handled by Ocean Media) but the company is preparing new ads to celebrate its 10th anniversary. So here's my suggestion for the client and its creative agency, DonatWald+Haque: We get it. eHarmony is for people who are serious about relationships. Can't you also now admit that those relationships aren't merely platonic?


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