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U.K. Match.com Ads Nix the Sentiments

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NEW YORK Aimed at the audiences of Fawlty Towers and Little Britain, not the When Harry Met Sally crowd, Hanft Raboy's campaign for Match.com in the United Kingdom has traded romantic comedy for slapstick yuks.

The estimated $5.5 million effort broke last week and follows a January campaign for U.S. audiences.

In the first of three ads, a couple is shown embracing passionately on their living room couch. When they try to break apart, however, they find themselves locked in that embrace and connected at the lips. In the style of a public service announcement, a voiceover asks, "Have you ever fallen so in love you have become inseparable? Getting through tight spaces is the most common problem," as the couple attempts to navigate through a door. Also problematic is exercise, the narrator says, as the man tries to ride a stationary bike with his girlfriend on his lap. "Being inseparable, a common side effect of being in love," the voiceover concludes.

Other "common side effects" are going weak at the knees, as illustrated by a couple who cannot stand still long enough to load a grocery cart, and "not being able to take your eyes off one another." The announcer advises, "Remember to keep your eyes forward to avoid injury, as a couple walking next to each other on a sidewalk fail to see an open grate and fall through.

"Here in the U.S, we built these little romantic comedies [in ads], but in the U.K., those may have been a little too sentimental for them," said Doug Raboy, chief creative at the New York independent agency. "They're more willing to laugh at themselves."

The U.S. work shifted the emphasis from the process of online dating to the endgame by creating two spots as mini romantic comedies. In one, a jilted romantic storms the field during a televised football game with the words "Forgive Me Andrea" painted on his bare chest. His girlfriend watches the gesture from her living room with friends. The other ad shows a woman obsessing over her status when the man she is with runs into his ex-girlfriend. The work was tagged, "Make love happen. Love is complicated. Match is simple."

"The people in the U.K. saw what we had done here and how we really had moved the brand," Raboy said. "What we had to prove was that we understood the British sensibility."

Ethnographies compiled from around the country found that online dating has become commonplace among American singles, but the British are still wary of the idea, he said.

"It's got a stigma," Raboy said. "People still want to know, 'Am I going to meet people like me, or am I going to meet freaky people who can't find a date any other way?' ... It's going to be a much more introductory tone."

To encourage first-time subscribers, Match is offering a free half-year membership if they don't find someone special within the first six months.

Radio ads follow the side-effect theme with spots about "singing because you're so in love" and women who "can't stop thinking about that special someone," replacing common nouns with the names of their beloved.

Finally, a three-minute viral ad mimics the kind of low-budget public news broadcast Monty Python famously parodied with a report on a love epidemic sweeping Great Britain. During the course of the broadcast, which features on-site reports and ads for fake products, the male and female anchors leap into each other's arms and disappear under their desk.