Oscar Wilde wrote, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” When it comes to eHarmony’s newest matching service, eH+, he was absolutely right.
In mid-2012, I was passed a 20th Century Fox Studios script called, ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty‘. Fox had sent it to us because we figured prominently in the story and they wanted our cooperation in making the fictional eHarmony somewhat accurate. Reading a script isn’t much fun. It’s like reading a blueprint and trying to imagine the beautiful building before your eyes, but I got through it and really liked what I saw. There was, however, one small problem.
The eHarmony portrayed in the movie was nothing like the one where I work.
Once we got word that Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig were taking the starring roles, and Ben was directing the movie, things started to take on a greater significance. Fox didn’t want any money, just our cooperation, which is very rare in the modern movie business. We had discussed starting a premium service within eHarmony many times, but this was an amazing opportunity. We were going to be in the film, and we had to figure out how to make the real-life eHarmony sync up with the one millions of moviegoers would experience.
We discussed internally asking them to change the film to suit the real eHarmony user experience — people take the relationship questionnaire, get matches, go through guided communication, etc. But where’s the drama in that? Would it be interesting to watch Ben Stiller quietly answer questions and communicate with matches? It would not.
The only other option was (gulp) building the service they portrayed in the film. Ben’s Walter Mitty character is on the phone often with his “eHarmony counselor.” The counselor, played by Patton Oswalt, talks him through the process, helping him build a great profile and coaching him when he is making significant missteps.
I was asked to lead the effort to build this new product and once we started to discuss it, I began to understand Walter’s attraction to this version of eHarmony. You’re talking to a human being who cares about your success. That’s nice. This person is reaching out to you and listening to your feedback. Who wouldn’t love that? Your counselor is helping you avoid the pitfalls that are common problems for many people. It’s like having a guardian angel! We were starting to get enthusiastic about the service we nicknamed eH+.
We began to build upon these ideas and take them in fresh directions. What if eH+ users were FREE from having to log onto the computer? FREE! What if eH+ users could avoid rejection? WHAT?! That’s like fat-free bacon. What if eH+ users had a level of privacy virtually unknown in the online dating world? We began to uncover a host of benefits that Walter Mitty didn’t need, but we knew most real people would love.
And now in early November 2013, we are working away building this new premium version of eHarmony. We know that people are going to leave ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ on Christmas day expecting to have a chat with their personal, professional eHarmony counselor. They are going to want to have their matches hand-picked and served with love, and we’re thrilled to say that we’ll be ready for them.
‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty‘ opens December 25.