Tinder Gets More Brand Dollars ... by Testing Sex Appeal of Facial Hair

Gillette Pays Tinder for Catchy Research, Not Advertising

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Tinder is capturing ad dollars from a large brand, but it's not through traditional advertising.

Gillette paid the popular dating app to test the (self-serving) theory that unkempt facial hair, from stubble to full beards, wasn't as desirable on Tinder as a clean-shaven or well-groomed face. The Procter & Gamble razor brand, working with Publicis shop MRY, is now promoting the results on a website at Shavetest.com.

Tinder was compensated for its role, but Gillete doesn't appear to have purchased traditional ad inventory on the platform. Instead it is pushing the results through a website and YouTube video.

"Tinder is obviously something that's really connected to that college audience," said Kurt Iverson, senior communications manager for Gillette. "It's where our user is right now. They live to see who's given them the swipe right overnight. When we started talking to them, it was a little edgier, more of a hookup app. But I think it's gone a lot more mainstream now. All age groups are aware of it."

The campaign also offers a glimpse into Tinder's evolving revenue-generating strategy.

The app began experimenting with native ads earlier this year through a profile for Domino's pizza and a match-making effort for Mindy from the Fox comedy "The Mindy Project." It's unclear how much the app charged for those tie-ins.

Tinder also recently started a paid service called Tinder Plus, which lets users connect with people from additional locations around the world and take back users' most recent swipe (in case of accidental rejection or approval).

Tinder parent IAC/InterActiveCorp said in July that it planned to start making money from the dating app at some point. Tinder could generate as much as $75 million a year in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, said Greg Blatt, chairman of IAC's Match Group unit, during a conference call at the time.

Last November, The Street reported that Barclays internet analyst Chris Merwin expected 20 million daily active Tinder users by this year.

Data from the app's large user-base is obviously desirable to brands like Gillette, which worked with Tinder to anonymously analyze 100,000 male Tinder users to see which group was scoring more right-swipes (a.k.a. likes): those whose photos showed them with unkempt facial hair, or those who were shown well-groomed or clean-shaven.

It's no surprise that the brand would pay for and promote a study encouraging more people to buy its products. But the effort could be more likely to sway customers than a 30-second spot if it convinces them it helps them find love. According to Gillette, the well-groomed guys dominated with 74% of the total right swipes and 37% more matches, the company said.

Contributing: Jack Neff

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said Tinder experimented with native ads through a profile for Domino's Pizza. The Domino's effort was not a paid ad, but a profile that Domino's set up on its own.