« E-Books and Pricing -- is $99.99 Okay?| Main | Female Form Enhances Ad Results -- Followup »

Why Does Facebook Hate This Woman?

| | Comments (9)
Girl with gray shirt
The notorious gray-shirted girl

Out of 20 randomly-selected ads, she
was getting 70% of the clicks. He even
replaced the title with Japanese, and she still
took over 60% of clicks from English speakers!
Here's a test. If you click on the picture, you go
to Amazon to look at grey shirts.
Can you resist? :)

I was reading an article on HackerNews how totally awesome Facebook Ads were yesterday. I thought this was strange, because I had always heard that Facebook Ads were a waste of time.

So I spent a few hours researching, ending up watching a couple rather long videos by Affiliate Marketers on how to make it big on Facebook. I heard a lot of stuff -- not really sure how much I learned -- but the most interesting thing was that images are important, and particularly there was this one image the guy had been testing that outperformed all others. He referred to her as the "famous grey shirt girl" For whatever reason, both men and women liked clicking on her image more than others he had tested. (I leave the speculation on this matter to the reader)

I love writing, and I have a bunch of little informative sites my wife and I have created, so I figured what the hell, let's take old grey shirt out for a spin. I loaded up five bucks for my FB ad spend, then created an ad for my NeuropathyInFeet.us site.

A few hours later, I got a rejection. It seems like this girl does not meet the standards for images at Facebook.

Who knew? Seems like a nice-enough girl to me.

I guess I could thrash around finding another buxom girl in a grey shirt, but something else the guy said really rang true to me: Facebook does not want you to succeed.

Facebook wants you to buy expensive ads to promote -- your Facebook pages. That way, they own you when you make the ad, they own the traffic, and they own wherever the customer is going. Sure, they'll put up with you having a very poor ad campaign sending folks off-site: as long as you are not too successful. If you get too successful, they will find ways to shut you down.

In fact, the guy was saying that a careful reading of the terms for ads on Facebook basically elminates any sort of useful ad campaign. Point in fact: Facebook prevents you from having an ad that takes the user to any place where they might provide personal information.

If you've been living in a cave, providing personal information, like "Hey, that looks neat! Send me a newsletter!" -- forming a relationship with the customer -- is the entire purpose of paying for ads.

How can Facebook do this? Why would anybody want to place ads there? Because they selectively enforce the rules. So if you're Chick-Fil-A and want to give away free chicken sandwiches in return for the user signing up to a mailing list, they don't care. If you're Joe Blow who's selling time shares, they probably don't care. And if you're some scammer guy making millions, they care. So they sack you for failure to follow the TOS.

This would be a great plan if the rest of us had any idea what to expect. It's like the grey-shirted-girl, to me she's the picture of a happy person, glad to be rid of her neuropathy in feet. But to Facebook, I'm sure, she is the harbinger of evil, a flag that shows that somebody else watched that video or attended a conference where this image was shown. Therefore she must be shut down.

This would be fine, I guess, if it weren't for the fact that images still sell ads, and obviously somebody else out there has found out grey-shirted-girl #2 and is using her image. What then? Make it so you can't use that image either? Will there be some magic list of stock images that are okay or not -- all based on how effective they are?

I realize this rant may sound a bit paranoid, and that's not my intention. If this was the only case, I could concede the point that it's nutty. But whether it's this, or Twitter closing off it's client, or Kindle killing Lendle, or Apple selectively tossing out some apps but keeping others, these are all of the same cloth. Walled garden providers do not want you to succeed -- they just want you to participate enough to keep traffic coming and participating in their garden. If you do too well, you'll start drawing traffic away, and then you must die.

Obviously there are some good reasons to control exactly what goes into your walled garden. I understand that some folks -- probably some of the same folks I was watching on the videos last night -- use faults in the system to exploit other people. And the walled garden providers supposedly provide a buffer from those folks. But the more I think about it the more I wonder who the real problem is. After all, I cruise around the open net all day long and manage to get by just fine. I'm not sure Apple or Twitter is really helping me that much by having that much control. And writing up some kind of draconian covers-all-the-bases TOS and then selectively enforcing it? That's a crock-of-bullshit. It makes folks -- at least folks interested in tweaking out their campaigns to squeeze every bit of value from them -- not want to participate at all.

And of course that's the entire point. Facebook loves the know-nothing schmucks, the big corps spending lots of money and perhaps not having a high level of skill, but they really don't want the trained amateur who might be able to get a serious return on their investment (and, more to the core of the matter, draw folks away from their site)

Reading the rest of the HN thread, I can see that other HN'ers have had lots of problems with Facebook ads, and from listening to that guy last night I can see why. They are trying their hardest to prevent the little guy from maximizing his ad spend.

More and more, I become alarmed at the dangers that walled gardens pose for small startups, entrepreneurs and micropreneurs. They all beat on their chest and tell the users how much they are protecting them, but that's the way of any monopolist. We've traded one Microsoft for a dozen little Microsofts.

It's making it so that you can have a legitimate business, say selling crockpots, and end up having to play silly games, jump through a bunch of dumb hoops, suck up to the right people, hope you can violate the TOS without anybody noticing, and then hope your visible enough to the right people but not to the wrong people -- just so you can sell your crockpots. You have to fight the very people who are supposed to be helping you connect to your customers. That sucks.

Why does Facebook hate this woman?

UPDATE: I posted a link to this blog on my Facebook fan page, which, wait for it, let me include a picture of this woman! So she's okay as a link on a fanpage basically advertising for my blog about technology, management, and humor, but somehow she's anathema in a conversation with people about neuropathy? Bah.


welcome to 2008.

Thanks. I hope it's going to be a nice year.

1952 was really boring.

Look, you're not even pretending to have copyright or modeling rights for this image. Why do you think you should be allowed to use it commercially?

The problem hardly begins or ends with FB or the other "plastic bubble" systems. To anyone with power, the biggest worry is that someone somewhere will come and take it away. So it's inevitable that paths to success will be swarming with gatekeepers and other parasites.

Why does the NCAA have so many ways to break athletic eligibility? Or why do the major sport leagues collude with the NCAA to limit how players may enter the draft?

It's about controlling the terms by which the great unwashed can succeed.

We are all just donkeys bearing gold.

I'm almost positive that the "notorious grey-shirted girl" is a friend of mine. Her name is Hope. I'm also almost positive that she will have been oblivious to the fact that her image has been used in this way when I tell her.

I don't mean to start an "abuse of participants" rant here but...

Does Hope want to help sell FaceBook Add Instructional material or encourage NeuropathyInFeet.us trafic? It may not be required by FB TOS but it sure would be nice if someone asked her.

Whose to say it's not legitimate stock photography? Facebook has little incentive to force users of their ad platform to provide rights verifications ahead of time, it's easier (and more profitable) to assume the photo is legit and wait for a copyright violation notice (or a message from an angry FB user who had their picture ripped for the ad)


It's a somewhat middle-aged buxom blonde woman in a grey T-shirt. The resolution is around 160x120

Are you saying that to run a $5 advertising campaign I should go take my own picture of somebody who looks like this? For five bucks?

There's a legitimate copyright discussion here, and I welcome it. But could we have it on another blog article, please? It's not germane for this particular question. The only purpose it serves here is to somehow drive us off into the weeds of when and how to use pictures in advertising -- great topic, like I said, but it has nothing to do with walled gardens and cross-incentives.

My apologies for the off topic comment. The thought of a friend being unknowingly used just steamed me more than the topic of the post. Again, I'm sorry.

I do agree that the services we grow to depend on seem to convey a sense of partnership when in reality they have engineered an environment where we are working for them.


I've had three people contact me this morning who said they knew this person. The last one said she was some famous internet meme. http://digamma.net/btfwiki/Jose_Lima%27s_wife

I don't think any of you guys are correct. I think from that small resolution it's almost impossible to tell for sure who it is. I know it can't be all three people. It's very weird that so many would respond like this! I've ran tons of other images, but this one strikes such a nerve? Interesting.

I'm going to say one more thing and then I'm preventing any further copyright discussion. I use TinEye to check images before I use them anywhere in order to source everything. Sometimes I can source them. Most of the times not. Perhaps as TinEye gets better, we can prevent getting people upset. I certainly hope so.

Leave a comment

Comment Policy: I really, really, really enjoy comments, but if all you have to offer is general platitudes like how happy you are to have found my site and what a wonderful place it is, I will delete your comment and report your comment as spam. Please try to either tell me I am wrong, sympathize with my point, expand on what I'm saying, or offer your own experiences or opinions. If you just want a link your best bet is to just ask for one. Probably won't work, but at least be honest about it. No name-calling and please keep the profanity as low as possible. If your grandma can't read it or you wouldn't say it in person, don't write it here. Thanks.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by DanielBMarkham published on April 5, 2011 7:20 AM.

E-Books and Pricing -- is $99.99 Okay? was the previous entry in this blog.

Female Form Enhances Ad Results -- Followup is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Share Bookmark this on Delicious

Recent Comments

  • DanielBMarkham: Snarfel, I've had three people contact me this morning who read more
  • Snarfel T. Garthug: My apologies for the off topic comment. The thought of read more
  • DanielBMarkham: Snarfel, It's a somewhat middle-aged buxom blonde woman in a read more
  • Justin: Whose to say it's not legitimate stock photography? Facebook has read more
  • Snarfel T. Garthug: I'm almost positive that the "notorious grey-shirted girl" is a read more
  • Some Random Dude: The problem hardly begins or ends with FB or the read more
  • Sean Palmer: Look, you're not even pretending to have copyright or modeling read more
  • DanielBMarkham: Thanks. I hope it's going to be a nice year. read more
  • T: welcome to 2008. read more

Information you might find handy
(other sites I have worked on)

Recently I created a list of books that hackers recommend to each other -- what are the books super hackers use to help guide them form their own startups and make millions? hn-books might be a site you'd like to check out.
On the low-end of the spectrum, I realized that a lot of people have problems logging into Facebook, of all things. So I created a micro-site to help folks learn how to log-in correctly, and to share various funny pictures and such that folks might like to share with their friends. It's called (appropriately enough) facebook login help