VidCon Recap: What Brands Need to Know About Today’s Digital Creators



If you are over 22, you may not have heard of VidCon, but this year, the sixth annual three-day event at the Anaheim Convention Center in California drew more than 20,000 attendees—mostly young teens, mostly girls—looking for You Tube stars their elders have never heard of. And, of course, many were looking for advice about how to become YouTube stars themselves.

“These teenagers will be on the hunt for celebrities with names like Smosh, Burnie Burns, TheThirdPew, Markiplier, Ksiolajidebt, Connor Franta, Flula Borg and Superwoman,” writes Nick Bilton in The New York Times. “To you and me, these monikers are completely unrecognizable.”

VidCon was founded five years ago by The VlogBrothers, Hank and John Green. John’s teen novel The Fault in the Stars became a hit film, catapulting him to fame, while Hank helps him produce popular videos including the Crash Course YouTube channel. Their conference now attracts more than 300 creators, 145 speakers and a massive audience (under drinking and driving age) who flock to selfie photo booths, a Jimmy Kimmel Live GIF-maker and an Instagram emoji ball pit.

Sponsoring meet-ups and signings and panels with YouTube stars like (first-time author) Tyler Oakley, more than 100 brands converged at VidCon 2015 including Canon, Taco Bell, Nickelodeon, Panasonic, Kia and NBCUniversal, while Kia and HGTV sponsored spaces. With booth set-ups ranging from $2,500 to $70,000, CoverGirl was at the high end with a video studio decorated with a flat-screen TV and orchids, promoting its new “Glam Guru” on YouTube to give millennials beauty tips.

Because VidCon attendees want advice and expertise to become breakout stars in their own right and start earning endorsements and income through Google Adsense, speed marketing replaced speed dating at this year’s VidCon. YouTube, for its part, paired a dozen of its partners with 12 different brands including Proactiv, Beats by Dre, Purina, the Department of Transportation, L’Oréal and Truth, for 10-minute sessions to test the magic on future partnerships.

The passion and fervor of VidCon fans is mysterious for those in the Burning Man, MTV or SXSW generations. So the organizers this year published Industry Track to help people trying to keep up.

“We’re really trying to look across the entire spectrum of what online video and digitally delivered video looks like,” Jim Louderback, editorial director for Industry Track, commented in the Huffington Post. “We’re embracing Twitter and some of the new virtual reality platforms like Littlestar and Vrideo, and we’ve got [newer] streaming platforms like Meerkat, YouNow and Hangwith” attending the show.

To give some perspective, KingBach has had more than 4.5 billion views on Vine while Justin Bieber, who appears in KingBach’s videos, has been watched a mere 800 million times on the platform.

“We’ve gone beyond an era of passive entertainment into a renaissance of immersive entertainment where the traditional rules of television are being rewritten in favor of new kinds of entertainment, interesting new faces and above all, engagement and community,” said YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who you can catch in YouTube’s “Brands at VidCon 2015” snapshot below.

VidCon co-founder Hank Green believes “the best competitive advantage you can have is being super-obsessed about what you do and accepting that other people will call it silly,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “It’s all about believing in your obsession.”


In another sign of the changing power structure in Hollywood and entertainment, the top stars in the digital world ranked by Variety in its Fame Changers issue hail from all corners of the globe. They share charismatic personalities and are amassing huge audiences across YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and points beyond that exceed many of biggest media brands:

  1. PewDiePie: Gaming’s crown prince and make-or-break reviewer
  2. Nigahiga: Hawaiian-born cut-up Ryan Niga is tight with his fans
  3. Joey Graceffa: One-man reality show charms his way into subscribers’ hearts
  4. MyLifeAsEva: A passion for fashion
  5. MKBHD: Techno tastemaker Marques Brownlee gives the scoop on hot gadgets
  6. Vsauce: Science guy mixes fact with humor
  7. The Young Turks: Interactive news equals views for online journalists
  8. Shaytards: The kids are all right in a long-running family vlog
  9. Rosanna Pansino: Confection queen rises with nerd-themed goodies
  10. Dude Perfect: Acrobatic athletes cook up stunts to entertain the masses
  11. Lindsey Stirling: Chanteuse aims high with surreal performances
  12. Mighty Car Mods: Aussie auto bodies gear up for fans

PewDiePie, YouTube’s reigning heir, is a 25-year-old Swedish gamer, born Felix Kjellberg, who has tens of millions of followers on YouTube. He uploads Let’s Play videos of himself as he offers spirited commentary. The genre has about 500 million viewers worldwide, according to research firm SuperData.

“YouTube breaks the barrier between the audience and the creator,” said Kjellberg. “They feel a connection to the one they’re watching. It’s almost like you’re hanging out.” Hanging out has proven so profitable for him, a voice cameo as himself in an episode of “South Park” (“#Rehash”) satirizing the popularity of Let’s Play videos earned him $7.4 million last year. His book, This Book Loves You, will be released in October with advice such as, “Don’t be yourself. Be a pizza. Everyone loves pizza.”


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