Brand Dig: The Controversial Stars of a Digital Age

In this blog series, we dig into the world of marketing and discuss brands, news, trends and examples that have made the digital headlines.

In this week’s post, marketer Kyle looks at how the younger viewers are more inclined to follow the stars of the digital screen rather than stage and film.

Like when a young John Travolta or Audrey Hepburn first burst on the scene, they were met with a younger audience that seem to resonate with them. Maybe it was because these stars seem to understand a world that the older generation hadn’t quite yet grasped. This is no more true than today with the rise of the YouTube stars. Recent studies show that the youth are going against the mainstream media and are more compelled than ever to turn to the guys and girls that are armed with only a video camera and a idea. From commentating on TV games to watching them simply eat, there is no denying that these contemporary stars are leaving a mark on the youth of today. In this Brand Dig we look at some of the most controversial stars to try and understand why the cool kids (or crazy teenagers, you decide) are starting to look up to these home-made icons of the digital screen.

DanTDM Comes under Fire

YouTuber DanTDM has a massive 15 million followers, most of which are popular TV game players of game Minecraft (64.9% of whom are 20 years old or younger). This fact alone however didn’t stop him from setting a popular child’s toy he reviewed last year on fire. I don’t know about you, but when I was a teen, there was nothing more fascinating to me than fire. It was only until I set the house’s roof a blaze did I realise that fire and I should put our relationship on hold (at least till I was older and more responsible). The stunt was done with a blowtorch and the toy itself had batteries in it, which means it has the potential to explode (but he wore gloves so it’s cool, perfectly safe). Needless to say, the men at the fire department have since been involved and have since asked for the video to be taken down. Dan is yet to respond or take the video down, instead the video has a accumulated over 3 million views so the negative PR certainly hasn’t has done any damage to his channel. Maybe just maybe, the fact that DanTDM’s content is what every teenager wants to see: a toy that could explode set on fire with a blowtorch.

Lena promises she’ll do a Kardashian

Sex tapes, they used to ruin famous people’s careers, now they make people famous. Trying to use this complicated strategy to her advantage, Lena The Plug, a Californian vlogger churning out video content such as daily stories, naughty features and occasional direct chat (like an online book club for nymphomaniacs), recently promised that if she gets 1 million subscribers on her YouTube channel she will indeed make her own public sex tape. The clip has already been viewed more than 1.4 million times but some social media users are not impressed, with one individual stating ‘You’re a mess. Get a real job like the rest of us”. They say sex sells, and YouTubers are essentially selling themselves (their whole selves apparently), through a easily accessible platform that has no age to a demographic who actually like to be more engaging than any of the previous generations. What’s interesting is how YouTubers use subscribers as a currency for reward (not that I personally deem a naked Lena a reward), but looking past the moral dilemma I find myself in, I do think that using the concept of video content to boost popularity as a concept can be really smart.

Peppered with Hate

YouTube pranksters, the best at controversy. From blowing up a child in front of their mother to girlfriend suicide, it’s entertaining because – and I quote – “it’s just a prank, it’s just a prank”. These somewhat questionable stunts have given birth to dozens of popular channels that all focus on getting a reaction out of the unsuspecting public, but doing it in a way that shouts inappropriate. Sam Pepper must have heard it and decided it was his calling as this YouTuber pulled a prank that was deemed as sexual harassment by online communities all over the world and sparked outrage. Although Sam might have pushed the envelope too far, these pranks follow a recurring trend, where pranksters try to outdo each other by doing something audacious. Better yet is the pranksters ability to to connect with their viewers.  Although I do enjoy a mesmerising Jean-Claude Van Damme double split kick to the face, I doubt if I asked him to pull a prank watching an adult film in public, he would oblige.

But whether we like it or not, these YouTube stars are the influencers of today. Unlike Hollywood stars with their extensive media training and PR teams, these individuals have a direct connection to their audience. Youth find YouTube broadcasters authentic and accessible, increasingly turning to online videos over traditional television shows because it makes them feel good about themselves – and they’re in full control of what they watch. As we’ve all been awkward teenagers, it’s not hard to understand why the current generation is leaning to influencers that are fully tapped into the modern day era, which is why the YouTube stars of today have such a massive following from tomorrow.

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