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Love war

Date: 2007-12-26

The world of Internet dating can be a cold, unforgiving place - and that's
just the battle between Web sites for customers.

The online dating service Chemistry.com plans to unleash a new campaign that
seeks to depict its older and larger competitor, eHarmony.com, as out of
touch with mainstream American values. The ads, which will appear in weekly
newspapers and magazines in the United States starting Monday, attack
eHarmony for refusing to match up people of the same gender and for the
evangelical Christian beliefs of its founder, Dr. Neil Clark Warren.

It is not the first time that Chemistry.com has hit on this theme. In April,
the service ran a set of ads called ''Rejected by eHarmony'' featuring
people who were turned away from eHarmony for being gay, not happy enough or
simply unmatchable by their system. Chemistry.com spent $20 million for that
campaign in the second half of the year, and plans to increase the budget
for this new effort.

Although Chemistry.com has only 3.7 million registered users compared with
eHarmony's 17 million, the ''Rejected by eHarmony'' campaign has apparently
worked: Since it was introduced, Chemistry.com has experienced an 80 percent
growth rate, said Mandy Ginsburg, general manager of Chemistry.com. She said
that gay and lesbian people made up about 10 percent of the site's
membership.

Chemistry.com, an offshoot of IAC/InterActiveCorp's Match.com, follows
eHarmony's practice of putting users through an in-depth personality test in
order to generate potential matches. Other online dating sites, like Match
or Yahoo! Personals, allow users to post pictures and profiles of themselves
in order to make their own connections.

Still, eHarmony says that the two companies are not in the same line of
work. ''Chemistry.com and eHarmony are fundamentally different companies,''
said Jodi Petrie, an eHarmony spokeswoman. ''We focus on helping people find
successful long-term relationships. We don't consider ourselves a casual
dating site.''

EHarmony, based in Pasadena, California and founded in 2000 by Warren, a
clinical psychologist, has been criticized for refusing to provide same-sex
matches. The service also turns away applicants who are married or have been
divorced too many times. Warren, a former seminary student who has had
several books published by the evangelical Christian group Focus on the
Family, has publicly voiced his belief that premarital sex can increase
one's likelihood of marrying the wrong person.

Petrie said that eHarmony took no position on premarital sex and had no
affiliation with any religion. She also articulated its reason for not
offering services for gays or lesbians. ''EHarmony's matching system is
based on psychological data collected from heterosexual married couples, and
we have not offered a service for those seeking same-sex matches,'' she
said. ''Nothing precludes us from offering a same-sex service in the future,
but it's not a service we offer now.''

Nonetheless, Chemistry.com, founded two years ago, is banking that consumers
will agree with its disapproval of eHarmony and prefer to associate with a
brand that they feel more closely reflects their own values. The campaign
imagines a world in which eHarmony's values - as interpreted by
Chemistry.com - were enforced in various ways. For example, one ad shows a
sign on a beach that reads ''No gays on beach, May-September,'' while
another features a motel sign declaring, ''No premarital sex.'' The copy in
both ads goes on to assure readers that Chemistry.com does not judge or
enforce a moral code on members.

The ads ''demonstrate that eHarmony is out of sync with what is happening in
America,'' Ginsburg said. The campaign will expand to include television and
more print ads in January.

The ads were developed by Hanft, Raboy and Partners, an independent agency
based in New York. ''The idea behind the campaign is to globalize eHarmony's
practices, and ask, 'What would it mean if America had to live by those
rules?' '' said Adam Hanft, the agency's founder and chief executive.

Competition for customers in the online matchmaking business, which
generates $600 million in annual sales, has heightened. Revenue growth has
slowed from more than 70 percent a year to 10 percent in 2006, and is
projected to grow just 8 percent annually until 2011, according to Jupiter
Research, an Internet consultancy.

Source: http://www.contentagenda.com/articleXml/LN720917157?nid=3040





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