Dating site eHarmony should stop advertising that it has been responsible for more happy marriages than other dating sites, the Better Business Bureau's National Advertising Division said on Wednesday.
The organization's decision came in response to Match.com's challenge to an ad campaign touting eHarmony as the No. 1 site for marriages. eHarmony said it will take the recommendation into account, according to the National Advertising Division.
The ads that sparked the complaint touted eHarmony as the top site for the “most marriages,” as well as the “most enduring” and “most satisfied” marriages. The company's ad campaign, which ran on television, Web sites and print ads, drew on a 2013 study by the University of Chicago's John Cacioppo, which was published in the well-known Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences journal.
That study -- commissioned by eHarmony -- found that more than one out of three marriages begin with people meeting online. Cacioppo also reported that people in marriages who started online connections were more satisfied with their marriage, and less likely to divorce than their counterparts who met off-screen.
But Match.com said that the study doesn't support eHarmony's claims to be the top site for marriages. Among other reasons, Match.com said that the researchers were aiming to compare relationships where people met online to those where they met in traditional venues.
Match.com also argued that, even though the researchers asked the participants which dating sites they used, the answers didn't support eHarmony's conclusions. Match.com pointed out that the proportion of study participants who said they met on Match (24.34%) was almost identical to the proportion who said they met on eHarmony (25.04%). An additional 7,21% met on Yahoo, which was a co-branded version of Match.com for part of the time period covered by the study.
The National Advertising Division agreed with Match.com on that score.
“The Cacioppo study and the underlying survey data did not provide a reasonable basis to support the message that more married couples met through eHarmony than through any other dating website and recommended that the “#1 Most Marriages” claim be discontinued,” the NAD wrote in its opinion.
The NAD also recommended that eHarmony stop boasting that it's responsible for the most enduring and satisfying marriages. The organization pointed out that the Cacioppo report itself contains a disclaimer warning against reading too much into the results.
“Marital outcomes are influenced by a variety of factors. Where one meets their spouse is only one contributory factor, and the effects of where one meets their spouse are understandably quite small and do not hold for everyone,” the report states.