YouTube Capitalism: Vlogging Celebrities and Advertisers
YouTube’s presence within social media is a driving force for content. Social media is accessed by two billion people worldwide and accounts for twenty-eight percent of an individual’s media usage per day 1. These statistics make it no surprise that advertisers have flocked to social media for promoting their products. Advertisers have targeted popular vloggers, who record aspects of their lives, to become vessels for increased commercial profit. The engaging relationship between vloggers and their followers means advertisers have entered a valuable resource. What are the consequences of vloggers siding with advertisers?
Vloggers’ Informal Approach
Vloggers’ primary aim for success is using their personality. Vloggers have to be friendly and speak to their followers causally, or else they will never be able to sustain long-term popularity. Zoe Sugg, known to her followers as Zoella, is a fashion and beauty vlogger. Since Sugg began vlogging in 2009, she has regularly made videos reviewing fashion and beauty products. Sugg as a self-obsessed consumer essentially is the same target audience as her followers, making Sugg trust-worthy in her opinions. In Primark Haul, Zoe reviews various Primark products. Zoe is always giving her opinions and making suggestions to her followers, as if she is talking to a close friend. When Sugg discusses the handbag, she notes that “I don’t really have a decent night out handbag, and I just figured the pink color would go with a lot of different things”. This sentence shows Sugg’s casual style of discussion with her followers, which lets them feel closely connected to Sugg. The use of Sugg’s living room as a setting makes her followers feel like they are part of a one-on-one conversation, continuing the informality of Primark Haul.
Tyler Oakley began his vlogging career discussing entertainment topics and homosexual issues. From television and music to homosexual celebrities, Oakley’s honesty and openness regarding these topics has made him one of the most popular vloggers with over six million followers 2. Similar to Sugg, Oakley is informal in conversation. Oakley’s use of phrases like “oh my gosh” and “I’m freaking out” reflect his informal manner. Another similarity Oakley has with Sugg is use of settling. How I Met Lady Gaga shows Oakley in a room, which he has personally designed of those who he admires and respects. It reflects how Oakley constructs an intimate relationship with his followers.
Advertisers’ Use of Vloggers
Sugg’s popularity has not only given her over seven million followers 3, but has made her a force within fashion and beauty marketing. Sugg has her own range of branded products 4 and co-wrote a book aimed at her target audience 5. Experts within the fashion and beauty industry understand why this is a perfect strategy, noting that “shoppers trust their online idols to create products they would use themselves” 6. Beach Walk is evident of Sugg’s crucial role for advertisers. Sugg’s actions are staged and every product is shown in extreme close-ups. This makes Sugg’s followers remember every product she uses in case they wish to make a purchase. Beach Walk also contains a soundtrack of current music for entertainment purposes, as well as becoming another product that is marketed towards Sugg’s followers. Every product shown is linked within Beach Walk‘s description, making sure Sugg’s followers know where to purchase.
Oakley’s surging popularity as a self-confessed “fangirl” means he has worked with various commercial organisations to promote their products and has crossed over to other media platforms 7. Energy Drink From Hell shows Oakley promoting various products while continuing to be his usual self. First, Oakley shows himself in an issue of teen-orientated magazine Tiger Beat. Oakley asks his followers to buy a copy of Tiger Beat and take a selfie, so that Oakley will acknowledge them. This is an obvious ploy to help advertisers make a profit and target Oakley’s followers in future promotions. Oakley then promotes almonds from Nature Box as another of his many ‘suggestions’. Even though Oakley continues to be open and friendly, he is being directed by advertisers’ ulterior motives for increased profit. As with Sugg’s Beach Walk, the description within Energy Drink From Hell contains links to all the products featured.
A Vloggers’ Integrity
While Vloggers like Sugg and Oakley have made a fortune in becoming figureheads for advertisers, there can be questions regarding a vloggers’ integrity and the controlling nature of commercialism. Before Sugg and Oakley reached the mainstream, they discussed products and topics which they truly enjoyed. Although Sugg and Oakley still conduct similar conversations with their followers; simultaneously, their integrity is diminished by shifting their focus on promoting products. Advertisers know vloggers’ relationship with their followers is close-knit, so they use vloggers to manipulate sales. Now, Sugg and Oakley are only vessels to embody an advertisers’ marketing scheme. Vloggers who have become mainstream make it harder for those who want to use social media as a platform for personal expression. There are many vloggers who are lesser-known yet discuss important topics.
One of which is TomVeeTv 8, who posts videos of their political activities to raise awareness of global injustices. However, advertisers would never use vloggers like TomVeeTV for the obvious reason that there is no content which can be connected to any product. TomVeeTV’s content includes supporting Palestine against Israel, an American ally, and Native American rights. Advertisers supporting a vlogger who attacks American foreign and domestic policy will never happen as they criticise Government authorities, who usually have good relations with advertisers. Whereas advertisers will never have a problem with Suggs and Oakley because they only critique products that have no controversial links. Therefore Suggs and Oakley become more accessible, while TomVeeTV only has less than a thousand followers 9. YouTube capitalism will continue to engage with vlogging as it is dominated by marketing than it is for personal expression.
- http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/social-media-addiction-stats/504131 ↩
- https://www.youtube.com/user/tyleroakley/about ↩
- https://www.youtube.com/user/zoella280390/about ↩
- http://metro.co.uk/2014/09/29/if-you-dont-know-who-zoe-sugg-is-shes-the-girl-behind-the-biggest-beauty-launch-of-the-year-4885505/ ↩
- http://www.thebookseller.com/news/penguin-childrens-signs-vlogger-zoella ↩
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2772761/The-young-vloggers-millions-fans-set-conquer-worlds-literature-fashion-beauty-television-thanks-lucrative-make-TV-book-deals.html ↩
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/02/tyler-oakley-is-a-bigger-_n_2599750.html ↩
- https://www.youtube.com/user/TomVeeTV/featured ↩
- https://www.youtube.com/user/TomVeeTV/about ↩
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