Those of us of a certain *cough* age will remember Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, et al. They were our 1980's idols : The Brat Pack - so named after a fairly negative article in the New York Magazine in June 1985. It felt like all coming-of-age movies starred these beautiful people and their (film) collaborations were the thoughts and actions of our angst-ridden teenage lives played out on the big screen. It wasn't just us that was feeling this way.
Fast forward 30 years and now we have a Brat Pack for the 21st Century. This time we can access them on the small(er) screen of YouTube but the premise is the same. Zoe Sugg, her brother Joe, her boyfriend Alfie Deyes, Louise Pentland, Tyler Oakley, Tanya Burr and Grace Helbig, to name but a few, are being touted by the media as "the most famous people you have never heard of" (see these articles in the Independent and on Buzzfeed as examples); they are the teenage idols of today - sort of... I asked my 15 year old son if he knew any of them but he was oblivious even though he uses YouTube on a daily basis however his girlfriend of the same age knew exactly who I was talking about.
On the surface, the videos that appear on an almost daily basis are filmed in the YouTuber's bedroom. They talk the talk, they walk the walk. They are carefully edited to only show the good/funny/relevant/essential content. As an occasional vlogger, I know how much time and effort goes in to filming and editing a video to show it at its best (although I have to keep most of the bad bits in because there'd be no content otherwise). The audience is only seeing a short (usually under fifteen minutes in length), fairly positive snapshot of daily life or a prank or cross-channel video (known in the world of YouTube as a "collab" or "collaboration") with friends. Let's also not forget that the majority of these vloggers are now managed by a variety of YouTube managers and agencies, one of which is Gleam, giving this new 'Brat Pack' their nickname of The Gleam Team.
YouTube is the second biggest search engine after the main Google website. Even I search for demonstration-style videos on there because, for me, a visual/written balance is needed. On some occasions, being shown how to do something or listening to someone else's experience (with facial expressions) is much more meaningful than reading a blog post. Other times it's the flip-reverse. Therefore I can completely understand why the high school generation is tuning in and getting sucked in to the types of videos that are being produced by The Gleam Team.
We need to ensure that this younger generation totally understands that this small group of vloggers are now media and agency led, that they are using professional editing equipment and are promoting a positive outlook on life. Now, there's nothing wrong with that but these videos are being watched hundreds of thousands of times, cracks are beginning to show because of their artificial and elevated 'celebrity' status and sponsored partnerships are not being declared appropriately. During a conversation with Lynn Schreiber of Jump! Mag this morning (see a Twitter snippet here), we talked about how brands must be keen to work with these vloggers because of the exposure however the blur between authenticity and corporate behaviour needs to be more transparent because of their target audience. And that's currently not happening.
Almost all of the 80's Brat Pack had their careers derailed by the end of the decade due to problems caused by alcohol, drugs and at least one sex tape. The speed in which fast-paced media moves now, who knows where The Gleam Team and their compadres may be this time next year? Many of them have helped create (or put their name to) clothing and beauty ranges, have had the opportunity to publish books and have put their own positive spin on life in general.
Is this a real world that we want our teenagers to aspire to or is it giving them false hope? Is the perfect life portrayed in these short vlogs giving a fractured outlook and making our kids think even more that the only way to success is to be famous for fifteen minutes?