"We are at a historic moment in history. We are witnessing a changing of the guard in real time. Young people are leaving TV in droves and moving to online. As a consequence new brands are being created as we speak."
These were the words of Vice Media's global manager Hosi Simon at the recent Brandcast event at Sydney. And while many of Simon's comments were made largely in regard to the growth of Vice into a media powerhouse, they were equally relevant to the new breed of YouTube celebrities that are emerging from within the platform.
With a total of 1.2 million subscribers across the world, the Kiwi vlogger Jamie Curry (of Jamie's World) is one of only two New Zealanders to meet the YouTube star threshold of having more than a million subscribers. And her online fame is starting to spill over into the real world.
"She has a superstar status being regularly mobbed in the street by school kids in both New Zealand and Australia," says Anna Lawrence, Curry's talent manager and an executive director of Johnson & Laird Management.
This resonance with 13- to 24-year-olds recently caught the attention of Coca-Cola Australia, leading the drinks company to collaborate with the teen.
"Adhesive PR (Coca-Cola’s PR agency in Sydney) contacted Johnson & Laird Management regarding the Coca-Cola #colouryoursummer campaign, which they were planning to activate over summer in Australia, and said they would love to work with Jamie," says Lawrence. " We were told that was going to be a world’s first for Coca-Cola to be focusing on creating a new and exciting ‘world within a world’ that teens could engage with socially and physically."
As part of her contribution to the campaign, Curry posted a video onto her channel, in which she is depicted taking a treasure hunt through Sydney as she follows cryptic clues and searches for five Coke cans, each of which is a different colour.
Sarah Kelly, the public relations manager at Coca-Cola Australia, says Curry was deemed a good fit because she appeals to the millennial market that the drinks company was targeting with this campaign.
What is most interesting about the campaign is that there were no ad agencies involved in the creation of the video.
"It was all Jamie's idea," says Kelly. “We sat down in a room with Jamie and discussed different ideas. It was important for the message to be authentic within her channel.”
After vigorous office-based testing, StopPress found that Curry's video clip does induce quite a strong cringe factor among those that fall outside the target. And as confirmation of the fact that the older generation simply doesn't understand the young'uns, the response on Curry's video post has been overwhelmingly positive.
Since being posted on 9 November, the video has already been viewed over 300,000 times, over 15,000 viewers have given it a thumbs up and comments continue to stream in (only 90 viewers have given it a thumbs down thus far).
Lawrence says that the reason the video has been so successful is because of the creative freedom that Coca-Cola gave her during the production process.
"It was critical that it made sense to her audience and Coca-Cola understood this," says Lawrence. "Brands are employing influencers like Jamie to front their campaigns for a reason and therefore it’s wise to let them do what they know best. She knows her fans and she knows her style, so by letting her get on and do it, which is exactly what Coca-Cola did, ultimately created a really smooth and enjoyable experience for Jamie."
Coca-Cola also afforded this creative freedom to gaming reviewer ChampChong, who is similarly making online waves but has a stronger following among young males.
"His approach was very different, and it brought a new perspective to the campaign," says Kelly.
Notably, neither ChampChong nor Curry ever explicitly say that Coca-Cola is paying for the production of the videos (Curry does however say that Coke flew her to Sydney). And although the consistent references to the colourful cans make it clear that there's a promotional element at work, it's still unclear whether this is sufficient to meet the ASA standards.
Recently, YouTube stars Dan Howell and Phil Lester came under fire for a promotional spot for Oreo, which the UK's ASA deemed not to have a sufficient disclosure that it was advertising.
Given that this form of advertising is still in its infancy, New Zealand ASA chief executive Hilary Souter says that a comparable decision has not yet been made here. And she adds that the ASA will determine the best approach to take on a case-by-case basis.
Coca-Cola's 'Colour your summer' campaign is currently only running in Australia, but Kelly says the colourful cans will be hitting New Zealand soon.
Kelly says that this market can also expect the drinks company to collaborate with more YouTube stars as the campaign rolls out here, but she would not confirm if Curry would be involved in the Kiwi activation.
So what's next on the agenda for YouTube star à la creative director Curry?
"She has a couple [more brand collaboration] opportunities coming over the months ahead," says Lawrence. "Jamie is also about to sign with a huge multi-channel network in the States, which will give her a vast number of platforms to cross pollinate and collaborate with worldwide. [And] over the next year, she'll also attend a number of YouTube tours around the globe to places where she holds a celebrity status."
This will likely see Curry visiting, the United States, the UK and Germany, as she follows her fanbase.
And on the topic of colourful Coke cans, Coca-Cola recently announced that stevia-containing Coke Life, which contains 35 percent less sugar than the regular version, would be hitting Kiwi and Australian shelves by April next year—meaning that green—albeit completely different—Coke cans will still be visible on shelves come autumn.
The product is currently only available in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, the UK and the United States, making New Zealand one of the first markets to get a taste of the drink.
Kelly says that Coke Life will be targeted at an older audience and that it's about giving more choice to consumers.