Over the weekend, Prince William was allegedly named the world’s sexiest bald man by The Independent, a pretty well-respected newspaper.
Many people looked at the tweet, laughed, and then moved on with our lives, assuming it was some weird PR stunt after the Harry and Meghan interview.
But if you actually take the time to click into The Independent article, you’ll quickly realize a few things don’t add up. Who funded this so-called study? Surely not Google. Who would honestly say Prince William is the sexiest bald man? I can’t think of many people.
It turns out it is simply a stunningly successful masterclass in viral marketing from a hair transplant company. Let’s break down exactly what happened.
Here’s the summary of what happened:
- The Turkey-based hair transplant company Longevita (who I’m shocked to learn has a Medium account, posting just once in 2015!) wanted to go viral. They basically googled searched a bunch of celebs and the word sexy, e.g. “Prince William” sexy, or “Jason Statham” sexy.
- They tabulated the number of web pages that mention those two in conjunction:
3. They created this “list” of “ranked” sexiest bald men:
I want to reiterate here: nobody surveyed anyone. They just googled a bunch of bald male celebrities and counted how many pages mentioned those and the word sexy. It could have even had “Prince William is not sexy” and would have been counted in those results. This is in no way a study.
4. Longevita then pitched it to The Sun, a British tabloid rag. The Sun happily wrote a story on this (they’re heavily pro-Kate and anti-Meghan, so they love this kind of stuff and aren’t inclined to critically fact-check it.)
5. The Independent picked it up from The Sun. Now, things started to get interesting. The Independent has a better reputation than The Sun and so people were happy to share it because it fits both narratives — both the pro-William people and the anti-William people who shared it just to dunk on it.
They were also the ones who decided to call it a “Google Study” in the headline — I guess they got away with it because technically, Longevita used Google?
6. A lot of people dunked on it. In the screenshot below, you can see that while about 5k people liked the tweet, 36k have quote-tweeted it, which is typically used to add additional commentary or context. In this case, to laugh at it.
7. Now Longevita has gone viral indirectly, exactly as planned. And here’s the pièce de résistance — they’ve successfully correlated an objectively unattractive man with baldness. Not too shabby for a hair transplant company, no?
8. Also, Stanley Tucci trended. This is because a lot of people were faux-outraged that Prince William was “named” sexiest bald man. I expect this was an unintended consequence, though maybe a nice ego boost for Stanley Tucci.
Critical internet thinking matters because the internet today is designed in a way to bait people to outrage. You can retweet something as stupid as this made-up study and actually spend time angry at this whole imagined narrative in your head about how the Monarchy faked this in order to bring Prince William back into a good public spotlight.
In fact, a lot of us were duped by a hair transplant company. Nothing more sinister than a hair transplant company trying to get a bit of recognition for their hair transplant services by pretending Prince William is scientifically the sexiest bald man even when the barest bit of critical thinking will reveal that the study is a sham. The Sun should not have picked it up, and neither should have the Independent, certainly not calling it a “Google study” which does make it sound as though Google commissioned it, doesn't it?
None of it was accidental. Every party here stands to gain except for us, the consumers on Twitter. Longevita get a ton of media mentions. The Sun got to share a nice bit of Prince William media. The Independent got to bait their lefty viewership into outrage. And by and large, the internet fell for it