We have used several techniques, including hyper-Rayleigh scattering and Stark spectroscopy, to investigate the effects of polyene chain length on the optical properties of complexes containing ruthenium(II) electron donor groups and pyridinium electron acceptors. In marked contrast with all other known donor-acceptor polyenes, conjugation extension beyond a single double bond in the dipolar complexes studied leads to blue-shifting of the intramolecular charge-transfer absorptions. Furthermore, the static first hyperpolarizabilities β0 become maximized with trans-1,3-butadienyl linkages and then decrease in complexes with three CH=CH bonds. Our results clearly demonstrate that the molecular engineering criteria for metal-containing nonlinear optical chromophores can differ dramatically from those for purely organic compounds. Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society.