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This story first appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Throughout the new Fox Film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller‘s daydreaming adventurer character takes phone calls from his personal counselor at eHarmony, the online dating site he uses to help him connect with a soul mate. While Internet dating services aren’t known for live 24/7 concierges, eHarmony decided that, rather than object to the inaccurate way it is portrayed, the company instead would create a service that mirrored the one in the film.
It all started a year and a half ago, when Fox showed the religious-leaning eHarmony the script for Mitty. “They basically said, ‘You’re in the thick of the plot, and we want you to help us be accurate,’ ” says eHarmony vp customer experience Grant Langston. “As I read the script, I realized it couldn’t be accurate because that’s not the way we provide our service. EHarmony is a self-serve model.” But the company had in fact considered a premium product wherein a client would receive a “matchmaker” to provide one-on-one counseling. Thus was born eH+.
EHarmony had intended to launch eH+ on Christmas Eve, the day before Mitty opens, but rolled it out instead Dec. 2 with just one matchmaker, a trained therapist. Although eH+ is pricey — $5,000 a year compared with $60 a month for eHarmony — Langston predicts it will attract a few hundred customers by the end of 2014. While eHarmony did not pay for product placement in Mitty, it has partnered with Fox on TV ads for both. “If it was a different movie, we’d push hard against it because we’re choosy about how our brand is portrayed and we don’t have much of a relationship with Hollywood,” says Langston. “But I don’t know of very many situations where life imitates art in quite this way, so we didn’t want it to slip by.”
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