What’s the only one problem with being a ‘YouTube celebrity’? The ‘YouTube’ part…
They say money doesn’t buy happiness, but $187,500 for a few seconds on YouTube might make anyone smile. And the best part? The check isn’t coming from YouTube, it’s paid directly to celebrities that subtly (or not so subtly) promote products on their channels.
So, sip a Diet Coke or apply some L’Oreal during a video update and get a big, fat check from the advertiser. Simple, right? And totally different from the outcry coming from heavyweight ‘YouTube celebrities’ this week.
But what’s the price of a celebrity sponsorship on YouTube? According to new data published by SF-based Captiv8, it costs an average $187,500 to secure a celebrity to properly sponsor a product on YouTube. That’s an average, meaning that super-celebrities with giant followings across numerous social networks can rake in hundreds of thousands of dollar for a few hours (at most) of work.
Why exactly? Because they have a ton of followers, around 3 to 7 million on YouTube, to be exact. These personalities are usually ‘celebrity celebrities,’ like Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez, and not YouTube-specific celebrities like PewDiePie and Philip DeFranco.
That last part is important: over the past 24 hours or so, YouTube’s celebrities have started a revolution, screaming that the video giant was censoring them by arbitrarily withholding advertising on their channels.
Philip DeFranco led the revolt, while dozens of others cried foul. An LGBT-focused vlogger screamed discrimination. A YouTuber helping people with depression and other issues decried the injustice of not being supported by happy advertisers. And on and on. Long story really short: YouTube eventually responded and said their policies hadn’t changed, only their alert system.
“There isn’t a law that says that YouTube has to enable advertising on any video, nor do they have to justify or elaborate on their decisions (or non-decisions).”
But that only partially calmed the rebellion, which is still smoldering. Somehow, there’s more to this story.
Maybe everyone will get a concession, or an updated alert system. But regardless of where this skirmish goes, YouTube celebrities will lose this war. There isn’t a law that says that YouTube has to enable advertising on any video, nor do they have to justify or elaborate on their decisions (or non-decisions). While on their platform, you’re obeying the laws of YouTube, essentially your judge, jury and executioner in every situation.
And guess who’s the boss of YouTube? Advertisers, who apply their own laws and restrictions on any potential association. So if an advertiser wants a billboard on Sunset Blvd. but not on Wilshire Blvd., then they don’t buy the billboard on Wilshire. And they don’t have to offer an explanation, they just don’t do it.
Just like Kia doesn’t have to advertise on a video about depression. They want people to be upbeat about Kias, not depressed about them (I made up the Kia example, but you get the idea). That doesn’t mean the YouTube video about depression isn’t critically important, it just means Kia doesn’t want to advertise on it.
It boils down to this: neither YouTube, nor advertisers, owe their ‘celebrities’ anything. It’s their platform, and their rules. And if you choose to build an entire business off of someone else’s platform, this is the type of thing that happens.
Enter rising video ad-blockers, and the future for YouTube celebrities just got more complicated (and for more on that, ready this). Which is why it’s so much better to be an actual celebrity, or better yet, someone who exerts influence across a number of different platforms. These people, celebrities or otherwise, are better known as “influencers,” and they can make a ton of cash on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and a bunch of other platforms. It’s not all reliant upon one.
Selena Gomez just made $550,000 for a promotional post on Instagram (yes, one post). If YouTube folded tomorrow, she’d survive. But there are so many other examples, in music and beyond. James Altucher, a fast-rising, ‘anti-self help’ author, blogger, and podcaster, isn’t tied to one format. He’s crushing it on many platforms, and carefully avoiding building his entire personality on one medium (like podcasting).
These influencers, including ‘celebrity celebrities,’ can move outside of one platform and make a deal with another. Like Twitter. How about a sponsored advertisement on Twitter? The average is around $30,000, for a 140 character ‘endorsement’ and pic, according to the Captiv8 data.
That’s not to say there aren’t problems with this. For starters, it’s difficult to tell what’s sponsored, and what’s genuine. That has stirred regulators: U.K. independent regulator Advertising Standards Authority told the BBC that these advertising posts must be “properly marked as advertisements” moving forward. The US-based FTC is also implementing restrictions on these arrangements in the States.
Already, we’re seeing ads getting marked, and maybe that’s okay. Just check out Kim Kardashian’s recent ad for Sugar Bear Hair on Instagram. Starting off with the all-important hastag #ad, she writes,
“Excited to be partnering with @sugarbearhair to share their amazing hair vitamins with you! These chewable gummy vitamins are delicious and a favorite part of my hair care routine #sugarbearhair.”
Checking out what kind of products and the celebrities endorsing them are under the Instagram #ad, you’ll find Vanity Fair “saluting” Lily J Collins as the new face of Lancome’s skincare collections. You’ll also find British fashion and beauty blogger and YouTube personality Louise Pentland promoting her new series, Dear Louise over at @awestruck. There’s also former star Alyssa Milano talking about Crest’s Healthier Smiles Project, other celebrities hocking Smash Box Cosmetics, Hollister Co. Jeans, Ovation Hair, and a whole lot more. Now, imagine charging $75,000 per each #ad, and $30,000 for messages on Twitter, and you’ll find those are large sums of cash floating around.
What about personalities who don’t have the star power to get around 3 to 7 million followers? Again, smaller ‘celebrities’ can make money here. If you’ve got around 50,000 to around 500,000 followers on YouTube, you can still score around $2,500 per integrated ad. But this isn’t getting paid by YouTube, and it isn’t subject to some ‘algorithm’ for appropriate content. It’s got to be negotiated and arranged directly, with advertisers that want true integration, not some mass-filtered, low-paying blanket.
And what if you can’t get a YouTube deal, and your YouTube-served ads are getting filtered? A broader, a more far-reaching influencer or celebrity has options on other platforms, which is greatly preferable to being subject to every last YouTube whim.
(Image by Picturesofmoney, Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic, cc by 2.0)