February 08, 2007 15:10 ET

Love Is the Sweetest Thing: Americans Reveal True Romantic Nature

We Believe in Everlasting Love but Resent Its Over-Commercialization

NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 8, 2007 --As much as life is rapidly changing in today's fast-moving culture, some things stay the same: A new survey commissioned by JWT serves as timely confirmation that Americans are still very much interested in love and romance.

Almost four-fifths (79%) of the 1,168 respondents who participated the online survey agree with the statement "I believe in love that lasts forever," and more than half (52%) agree strongly. Similarly, four-fifths (81%) say they believe in everlasting love, including 76% of men. Just 9% say they definitely don't believe in love that lasts forever.

"It's particularly interesting to see men showing strongly," says Marian Salzman, executive vice president, chief marketing officer at JWT and one of the world's leading trendspotters. "It's another example of the media miscasting men: Popular culture likes to portray men as clumsy in love and more interested in sports and gadgets, but the survey suggests today's American man has a heart, too."

Indeed, more than two-thirds (68%) of men agree with the statement "I am a lifelong romantic -- I believe in romantic love," while just 9% actively disagree.

And while conventional wisdom has it that young children play havoc with a couple's love life, parents of children under 13 are the strongest believers in love that lasts forever (84%), ahead of parents with older children (82%) and significantly ahead of those without children (72%).

As to how Americans express their love, most say they usually buy a Valentine's Day card for at least one person, with women slightly outnumbering men (77% vs. 72%). Men and women buy a Valentine's gift for at least one person in equal numbers (71% of women and 70% of men).

Some of those men feel pressured into participation, however: More than a third (35%) agree with the statement that "Valentine's Day is one of those things you have to do whether you like it or not," compared with just 17% of women. While more men (39%) disagree with that statement, women express a much stronger affinity for Valentine's Day than men (73% vs. 53%).

Any lack of enthusiasm about the holiday may be due to the fact that a majority of both men and women feel that Valentine's Day has become over-commercialized (73% of men and 68% of women); few men or women disagree (10% vs. 14%). And both genders feel that the media has distorted people's expectations in a romantic partner (71% of men and 69% of women).

The good news is that Americans are all for romance -- they just don't want it crammed into one day. Overwhelming majorities of both men and women (91% and 95%) agree that romance is for the whole year, not just for Valentine's Day. And sizable majorities of men and women agree (80% and 83%) that couples should take regular romantic breaks to keep the flame burning.

"Americans are becoming more educated and savvier consumers -- and they're getting savvier not only in the mechanisms of marketing but also in matters of love," says Ann Mack, JWT's director of global trendspotting. "Popular culture is full of insights, with shows like 'Oprah' and a slew of writing on subjects such as emotional intelligence. But there's a disconnect between Americans' understanding of love and romance, and the way some corporations and media are talking about it. People are yearning for something real -- the emotional version of organic produce, so to speak."

The online survey was conducted by SONAR, JWT's consumer opinion research arm. SONAR tapped into its random and representative panel of Americans to probe their opinions on love, romance and lust.

About JWT

JWT ranks as the largest advertising agency brand in the United States and as the fourth largest full-service network in the world. Its parent company is WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY). JWT's heritage of brand-building excellence extends back to 1864, making us the world's oldest advertising agency brand. In 1939, JWT pioneered the first national consumer research panel. In 1988, we created the first research study of consumer lifestyles, "Lifestages." We believe in being anthropologists first, advertising people second.

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    Matthew Haggerty