The plastic mask of fame.

A few days ago, Candace Payne, a middle aged woman from Grand Prairie, Texas uploaded a video of herself giggling as she tried on the Chewbacca mask she’d just bought for her son.

As the cheap, plastic mouth snapped up and down, her laughter got louder and louder. It was infectious, joyful. A simple human moment that shone like a suburban diamond amongst the bile and vitriol of a nasty presidential election and dangerous incursions by Chinese and American fighters over the South China sea.

Within hours, Candace’s video had been seen by over one hundred and thirty million people, making it one of the most popular shared videos of all time.

By the end of the first week, the Chewbacca mask had sold out in Kohl’s, Target and Wal-Mart and Candace was on national TV, recreating the moment with James Corden and J.J Abrams, the director of Star Wars.

Fame used to come slow. It would follow years of stand up comedy, busking in cold subways or singing in smoke-filled clubs. Now, it comes quick and hard and all it needs is a simple idea and a mobile phone. Andy Warhol would be proud.

My kids want action figures of YouTubers I’ve never heard of. Kids who make forty thousand a month talking about Minecraft. One of the most popular, Zoella, makes over eighty thousand a month from shared ad revenue and sponsorship. The Vloggers live in huge houses, drive Ferraris and all they have to do is film themselves talking about fashion or playing videogames. It’s fucking insane.

We are no longer competing with other brands for attention; we’re competing with the consumers themselves. They have their own mini TV shows, blogs and Instagram feeds, all hoping for that intoxicating moment when fame comes knocking.

The cultural landscape is changing faster than at any time in human history and to quote Ferris, you have to move pretty fast to keep up.

If Candace Payne can empty shelves across North America, no doubt hundreds of eager brands will be hoping that her infectious laugh can do the same for them.

On the surface, it seems artificial, another example of advertising attempting to cash in on the next big thing. But if Candace is clever, she’ll remain true to her loyal audience, picking products that she genuinely likes as opposed to celebrities who’ll sell almost anything if the pay cheque is right.

Vloggers live or die by their integrity. Their audience knows if they’re faking enthusiasm or, god forbid, selling out. This makes them an enormously powerful medium. After all, what’s more powerful than a good old-fashion product endorsement from someone who refuses to fake enthusiasm?

They don’t need research groups. They don’t analyse, post rationalise or worry about what worked last year. They produce content that just feels right. You know, like we used to do.

We’re being shown up by the very people we’re desperate to communicate with. Unlike them, we water down and over analyse our ideas until they become more suited to the boardroom than the bedroom – and that’s where the Vloggers are making their millions.

And, ironically, they’re doing it by selling the stuff that we’ve forgotten how to.


This article originally appeared in Adnews.



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