Two cents blog

Fame ain’t what it used to be

by Kevin Moreland on 30 October 2015

Decades before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, in fact way back in 1967, the influential Pop Artist, Andy Warhol, nailed it when he predicted that everybody would have their 15 minutes of fame. But with the rise of a more democratized media, is fame what it used to be?

To help answer this question, I have prepared a little pop quiz. So here goes… Do you, without referring to Google, recognise the following names and what they’re ‘famous’ for?

– Jenna Marbles

– Natalie Tran

– Walk Off The Earth

– Troye Sivan

– Adrian Van Oyen

– Jimi Jackson

I confess I had only heard of Natalie Tran. Yet the entire list are social media sensations, having amassed anywhere between 550,000 and 168,000,000 views and /or followers. Now to make sure my complete lack of awareness wasn’t just masking my complete lack of cool, I did a quick check amongst my four kids (aged 14-21) and the youngest, hippest BCMers. None recognized more than one (Phew!!).

So what can we conclude from this?

Well apart from the fact I have outed myself as being just about as far from the zeitgeist as it gets, it’s easy to conclude that today’s brand of fame is easier than ever to achieve, increasingly more fleeting, more disposable, and that gaining meaningful traction is ever more challenging. But that’s only part of the story.

It’s too easy to dismiss small-time fame as vapid, and those who pursue it as demonstrating narcissistic tendencies. And whilst this may sometimes be true, it’s beside the point. The fact is, the reason these micro-celebs have such relatively large followings, is in no small part because of the relentless way in which they ply their craft and connect with their fans. It may be their love of fashion, surfing, rugby, cooking, beer-appreciation or whatever, but they are noticed because they do it with an unquestionable passion, creativity and authenticity. And it is these qualities, in the face of harder-to-reach and increasingly skeptical audiences that marketers need in their arsenal.

That’s why we’re seeing more partnerships between big organisations and micro-celebrities. An example from just across the ditch; Jimi Jackson, an on-line comedian, who has been co-opted to discourage young Kiwi blokes from Drink Driving.

I suspect many young guys aged 17-24 would find Jimi and his online antics ‘puss-funny’ (to use their parlance and accent). Have a look below at what he produced for drink driving. It’s far from slick, far from PC, and it’s low on production values (looking like it was shot on an iphone). But regardless, this is indeed sophisticated communication.


I think it does a great job of connecting authentically, with a tough audience, and that’s why in just two weeks it has reportedly amassed over 2,500,000 views.

Now Jimi, I know, is no match in the NZ celebrity stakes, against say the much loved Captain of the All Blacks, Richie McCaw. But that matters little. He was no doubt a fraction of the cost of a big-time celeb. Pound for pound, Jimi is also probably more effective at authentically connecting and sharing a range of ways to avoid drinking and driving, in an entertaining and memorable way, than your average, and somewhat expected rugby legend.

What we can also take from this example, I reckon, is that if you are going to use micro-celebrities then clients and agencies alike will be rewarded if they cede some control and co-create with the said ‘almost-famous’. This way your message will more likely hit the right note, stay true to the essence of the celeb’s brand, and will ultimately mean better traction and more sharing of your message.

So just one question. Which famous person (that I’ve never heard of) will you be using in your next campaign?

Kevin Moreland is a Managing Director at BCM

- Pete on October 30

That's a clever way to hook up with 'almost-famous' talent. Fits right in with the tone of NZ's previous Legend ads and it doesn't feel like the message has been scripted by social engineers. Interesting that it was shot vertically too. Landscape is so last year.

- Alex on October 30

I met Natalie Tran at a party once. She was fabulous and funny. When she told me she had a blog, I nodded sweetly imagining a following of 20 (including her mum and dad). I'm now appalled at my lack of coolness. According to Wikipedia, Tran has over 1.7 million subscribers and more than 543 million video views. Oh.

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