The geniuses that gamed social ads with crotch shots find that novelty facial hair has a similar effect

By James Robinson , written on June 26, 2014

From The News Desk

A month ago, we checked in with Betabrand and its surprise finding that people engaged with its ads and links at a much higher rate if they featured close up shots of crotches. Conversion rates spiked 400 percent. Retweets rose 156 percent. Social advertising is a scary world, filled with companies desperate for attention. Embracing the lowest common denominator was looking a lot like good business.

Betabrand didn't stop with crotches. In a bid to explore the full reaches of the human psyche and how it impacts on our impulses to click certain links, it did another advertising test featuring its design director and co-founder Jared Graf modeling the same shirt with his beard photoshopped to different lengths.

Today it published its findings. Beards are good for business. Slightly creepily, the hairier and more novel the beard, the greater the impact.

Betabrand's Graf had his beard photoshopped to six different lengths for the experiment. The spectrum ran as such: 1) clean shaven, 2) moustache, 3) goatee, 4) handle-bar beard, 5) regular beard, 6) full ZZ Top style facial-covering.

For men, ads featuring beard number six, with Graf looking like he was auditioning for a role in a sequel to Castaway, had a click-through rate two and a half times greater than ads featuring Graf with no facial hair.

Beard numbers one through five prompted click through rates from men (0.25-0.32%), but displaying some deep subconscious attracttion to the virility displayed by a long, flowing beard, men seemed to click on it in much higher amounts.

With women, ads featuring Graf clean-shaven or covered in a regular beard had extremely low, almost negligible click-through-rates. Women liked variety, approximately three times more likely to click on advert featuring a man with some form of novelty facial hair configuration, and were over five-times more likely to engage with the ZZ Top thing.

The beards and the crotches point to an interesting new dynamic entering into social advertising. Our glazed eyeballs are rolling down Facebook News Feeds and over Twitter Timelines for hours each day. Betabrand are willing to seek out every single trick to increase the likelihood that we'll click its stuff. If not being even fractionally squeamish opens up the doors to more sales, damn squeamishness. We're quantifying everything these days for commercial advantage. So why not subconscious response to hirsute men?

Of course, the more cynical response is, that like the crotch shots, people responded in greatest number to the most noteworthy image (guy with really huge beard). If everyone acted this way, we'll eventually get desensitized to crotches and beards and the impact would wear off.

Either way, the bottom-line is this: your attention is money to a company, but the competition has never been greater. Expect companies to start going to weirder and weirder lengths to catch you for a second.

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]