HomeInsightsCommittee of Advertising Practice publishes advice note on online dating and the CAP Code

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As CAP says, internet dating can be a rollercoaster adventure, but advertising it doesn’t have to be. To make it easier for marketers, CAP has published a short advice note on the subject.

First impressions count: whilst it is not uncommon for online dating profiles to stretch the truth a little, marketers of online dating websites and services must take care to avoid misleading consumers. Therefore, marketers should not make promises about the nature of the service that cannot be substantiated. The ASA upheld a complaint against an advertiser who claimed to have a “scientifically proven matching system” because the advertiser could not provide adequate evidence that their website offered users a significantly greater chance of finding lasting love than could be achieved if they did not use the service.

Be upfront about costs: any significant limitations and qualifications to advertised fees should be made immediately clear to consumers. The ASA often sees complaints about dating sites claiming to be “completely free” when, in reality, some functionality is accessible only to paying subscribers. Similarly, advertisers promoting paid packages should ensure that any costs or savings claims are genuine and clear; the ASA upheld a complaint against an advertiser who made savings claims on their dating site, but had never actually sold any of the packages at the advertised price.

Someone for everyone: advertisers must be careful not to take advantage of those consumers who are searching for people with particular like-minded interests or values, and should not imply that their websites are only open to specific groups or those with niche interests if this is not the case. For instance, a dating site that gave the impression it was for Catholics looking to meet fellow Catholics, when in fact it was open to other users as well, was found to be misleading. Likewise, the ASA upheld a similar complaint regarding a website for single parents, where it was found that a large proportion of members either did not have children, or had not indicated whether they were happy to meet a single parent.

Keep it clean: marketers should avoid using overtly sexual imagery and language in mediums likely to be seen by children. For instance, an ad for a dating website was found to have broken the rules because it featured overly provocative imagery in an untargeted medium, and was therefore judged to be irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Some relevant imagery may be permitted, as long as it is not gratuitous or sexually explicit.

To read CAP’s advice in full, click here.