ASA

UK Bans EHarmony Ad For Claiming Service Is 'Scientifically Proven'

"Crude puffery"

SCIENCE AF STAFF
3 JAN 2018
 

There are lots of services that are scientifically proven, but online dating is not one of them.

In an attempt to protect the public from misinformation, the UK has banned an eHarmony ad claiming to use a "scientifically proven matching system."

 

The ad - which read: "It's time science had a go at love" - was described as "misleading" by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The initial complaint was made by Lord Lipsey, a joint chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Statistics and a former member of the ASA council.

He said the term 'scientifically proven' should be reserved for "just that" - not for "crude puffery designed to lure in those longing for love."

"This is a new form of fake news which the ASA has rightly slapped down," he added.

The eHarmony website - which describes itself as the "brains behind the butterflies" - has said it "respectfully disagrees" with the ruling, claiming it uses "sophisticated matching standards designed by PhD psychologists."

According to the managing director at eHarmony UK Romain Bertrand, the matching system was conceived on the premise that "science and research could be harnessed to help people find love."

At the root of this matching system is an algorithm designed to determine personality traits, values and interests from a questionnaire. Using statistical models created from the information of more than 50,000 married couples, the algorithm matches people based on their preferences.

 

The eHarmony ad claimed such an algorithm could "stack the odds of finding lasting love entirely in your favour."

The company has said they believe customers will interpret the service as a way to increase their chances of finding love, not necessarily guarantee love.

The ASA ultimately disagreed.

The authority ruled customers would understand the phrase "scientifically proven matching system" to mean, well, that actual scientific studies had been done. And therefore, customers would assume they have a significantly greater chance of finding love if they sign up to the service.

In a time when scientific misinformation is rampant in advertising (you're next Gwyneth Paltrow!) the ASA ruling is a step in the right direction.