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PewDieWhy: Should Influencers Toe the Line?

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Meet Felix Kjellberg or Pewdiepie, I’m sure you have heard of him, in fact, I’d even bet you’ve seen his face. Especially when surfing the wonders of YouTube influencers.

(He’s the less attractive one on the right)

Felix is the most subscribed person on YouTube with nearly 54 million subscribers. The closest to him is HolaSoyGerman, with 31 million respectively. To put this into perspective, Felix has more people subscribed to him than people living in Spain. Using SocialBlade’s future projections tool, we can see that Felix will have more people subscribed to him than the population of the UK (64.4M) – in just one years’ time.

So with that many eyeballs watching his gaming and video content, it’s no surprise that whatever content Felix produces has a big influence. Recently, Felix changed his video style by ‘reacting’ and ‘commentating’ on popular internet content, as well as playing games and being generally silly by mixing in his edgy and taboo sense of humour. But it’s this humour that recently got him into trouble, with claims he has made an anti-Semitic post.

The ‘post’ in question is a video where he reacted to what he could purchase on fiverr.com. Fiverr is a site where you can purchase peoples ‘gigs’ which could be drawings, crafts, video content, graphics and pretty much anything you can think of, at a base price of $5 – and here’s a fun fact, I used to be a gig seller there too.

(I do not do this anymore – but I still look like Harry Potter, I can’t alter that)

One of things he discovered whilst surfing Fiverr was a gig by the ‘Fiverr funny guys’. They are two Indian cousins who film themselves dancing and laughing but then reveal a custom banner saying whatever the customer wants. Felix bought gigs from various users including the Fiverr funny guys, where he asked them to write ‘Death to all Jews’ and say ‘Subscribe to Keemstar’ out loud.

Yes. You did read that correctly.

This is the video in question (reuploaded on another channel after he deleted it):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urE7_mYfPmk

Now, first and foremost, this isn’t a funny joke; it’s offensive, but it did make me laugh. Not because I support the message, but because it’s ridiculous these guys did it.

Secondly, I don’t think Felix believed they would actually do it, hence why he went ahead and posted the video; he wanted to show how unbelievable this website is.

And then, everything took a turn for the worst.

Publications like The Wall Street Journal and Vox started to report that Felix had been consistently promoting anti-Semitic behaviour and using Hitler and Nazi imagery in his videos. There is no denying he has made other references and jokes to ‘Hitler’ and ‘Nazi Germany’ but ironically and making it clear that he is not a supporter.

These ‘jokes’ are by no means okay but do they really suggest he is a fascist? Some might argue they are the product of an entertainer whose audience understands that ‘no subject is off limits’ just like the humour in South Park – that audience understands the jokes do not support hate but they are using them for comedic effect.

Far from destroying his career, the episode has seen Felix become even more popular. He has gained nearly 2 million new subscribers this month (up 5% from his previous month) and hit over 250,000,000 views.

So what do we take from this? That brands need to have better agreements in place when working with influencers? Or that the world has changed, YouTube influencers have big and engaged audiences and are no different from journalists who are free to publish how they see fit?

You decide.

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Laura Jones

Hi! I’m Laura, Account Manager on the PR team at BrandContent. Delivering strategic and results-driven PR campaigns with a creative edge is part of my bread and butter. I like to tease out the human element of any subject, which helps my clients get to the heart of their audience and makes sure they’re talking about things people really care about. If there’s a conversation to be had I want my clients to be centre stage for all the right reasons Outside of work I like to find a balance between running marathons and eating cake – but I don’t always get it right!

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