Canadian attitudes toward love and AI

Havas' Kirk Cavell examines how prosumers feel about tech and media in the digital dating world.

AI love
By Kirk Cavell

Digital changes everything, sometimes for the better. No more broken telephone in my delivery order through Uber Eats, or confusion in a shopping list with my wife through Google Keep.

But sometimes it doesn’t, like with love and dating. This was the finding in a Havas study that talked to over 17,000 people in 37 countries including Canada.

In the first quarter of 2019, Havas Group worked with Market Probe International to field a study of emerging shifts in love, romance, and relationships. The report draws on the attitudes and behaviours of 17,411 people (1,000 Canadians) ages 13-plus in 37 countries, with a focus on Prosumers, the leading-edge influencers and market drivers whom Havas has been tracking for more than 15 years.

(Ed note: Havas has been tracking Prosumers specifically because of their “personal economic impact” and how they influence behaviour: “Simply put, what Prosumers are doing today, mainstream consumers will likely be doing six to 18 months from now,” according to the agency.)

Looking at the Canadian data offered weeks of dinner party conversation. We are more human, less willing to trust tech and view monitoring sex as taboo.

Distrust in tech over human 

Digital is letting us down in the game of love.

ComScore tells us that 18% of Canadians visit dating sites, but very few trust love found through algorithms. Top sources for Canadians to find love are friends (43%) and family (42%). Social media is lower (8%) and algorithms are the lowest (5%).

Canadians need a personal connection. It’s a typical theme within the media industry to look at “hours spent with this” or “unique visitors on that,” without proper due diligence to understand which media and touchpoints are the most meaningful in developing an emotional and human connection.

What happens when we take out the human?

Taking the human element out of the process and replacing it with tech has made a few things that shouldn’t be easier, easier. For instance, boosting your ego at the expense of others by being more interested in receiving matches than actually meeting them (20%), affecting our ability to move on from exes (33%), breaking up with people via text or social (48%) and ruining the satisfaction that real life encounters can bring (53%).

This has led to a general disenchantment of digital dating and belief that things are now “better.” More than half (53%) of Canadians believe that dating was actually easier for previous generations than it is today.

Canadians take on porn, marriage and AI

The study also highlights how Canadians size up against the global population.

Although we have a similar take on things like dating apps making us more selective (CDN: 52%, GLB: 53%), marriage not disappearing in the future (CDN: 75%, GLB: 78%) and too much porn leading to complexes (CDN: 60%, GLB: 60%), there is a lack of Canadians accepting Black Mirror type scenario in their love life. Canadians are close to half as likely to accept things like AI, “coaches” or rating systems compared to our fellow global daters.



I would like to have a digital dating coach to improve my relationship game



In the future, AI will be able to tell us if we are really in love and in a sustainable relationship



In the future, I believe AI will understand my feelings better than my partner



In the future, I would be willing to monitor my sexual activities and performance for improvement



In the future, I would like dating apps to incorporate DNA match analysis



In the future, I would like to have an app to rate my different partners



In the future, we will be able to have a romantic relationship with a humanoid robot and it won’t be considered cheating




Implications for brands

Even if you’re not selling sex, the takeaways of this study mirror best practices and trends in the industry. Digital connections, no matter how data-driven, allow for customization not necessarily personalization or humanizing. If making meaningful connections with consumers is the goal, it’s important to scrutinize your approach and question which are the right channels, and how they are treated to ensure you are building that connection, not just delivering eyeballs.

Kirk Cavell is director of strategy at Havas Media Canada