According to Tanzina Vega of the Times, today is eHarmony's tenth anniversary, and they're commemorating the milestone with ads directed by Errol Morris (better known for documentaries like The Thin Blue Line). The ads feature unpaid actual couples doing couple-y things like kissing underwater and swinging in hammocks. The company apparently chose this approach over earlier strategies like "having couples talk about how they met or why they like the service" because, says Lucas Donat of the agency that made the spots, "People don't want to be sold to anymore. The beauty in letting music and lyrics tell the story is that it lets people stay open and allows you to access people at a different level."
Or maybe people don't need to be sold to anymore, because they already know the story. eHarmony's pretty much a household name at this point, with 3.4 million unique visitors last month, and perhaps more importantly, there may now be little need to explain to people how online dating works or to convince them it's okay to do it. Says eHarmony CEO Greg Waldorf, "I don't think people are surprised that a quality relationship starts at eHarmony or starts online. The stigma has just gone out of the business."
Whether or not said stigma is completely gone, it's true that online dating has become familiar, and now it can be marketed like other familiar services. eHarmony's new ads could almost be for AT&T or Visa, brands with such high name recognition that their advertising often seems to sell happiness rather than a specific product. Online dating is lovely in some ways (connecting people who might never have met in the real world; giving shy people a useful extra tool in their search for love) and disturbing in others (racism; a new forum for crap emails). But its ascendancy is undeniable, now that eHarmony can advertise it using almost no words at all.