Brands Beware: Logan Paul (Or Someone Like Him) Can Cause Real Damage
Another YouTube celebrity is facing an internet storm over a tasteless video, and brands are once again wondering how to avoid influencer disasters like the one wrought by Logan Paul.
Paul, a hero to pre-teens whose followers number around 15 million, posted a video to YouTube that showed a dead body in a forest in Japan known as a locale for suicide.
"There is no reasons for brands to take risks like that," says Harvey Schwartz, president of talent at WHOSAY, an influencer marketing company, telling advertisers to avoid the likes of Logan Paul.
Logan and his brother Jake Paul had already been on the radar as toxic for brands even before the latest incident, according to influencer marketers and analytics companies.
Brands and ad agencies have been working closely with technology providers and the platforms to better vet videos whether on YouTube or Facebook, so they can control where ads run. One social video analytics firm, Delmondo, recently partnered with a company called Uru to scan videos from influencers and rate their content according to their level of brand safety.
"Brands need to do more research into these influencers," says Delmundo CEO Nick Cicero. "There are more people to keep track of than ever before, and it's harder to do quality control. So you have to do the research to make sure some YouTube kid won't put your brand in a bad light."
Advertisers are in a predicament, though. The Paul brothers command six-figure deals to put brands in their videos. Logan Paul has worked with Walmart and Dunkin Donuts, among others. Such brands want to reach YouTube's billion-plus monthly viewers, but they don't want to be seen supporting low-quality content or offensive creators.
YouTube is the channel of choice for many young viewers who are not as tuned into television as prior generations.
The YouTube stars are today's equivalent of boy bands of the 1980s and '90s, but withough adult supervision, their videos can cross the line of good taste, and the personal nature of the videos often expose the stars' character flaws.
Last year, one of the most famous YouTube stars Felix Kjellberg, known online as PewDiePie, was dropped by Disney for making jokes about anti-Semitism.
Brands and advertisers have been taking the issue of content safety more seriously over the past year, since ads were found running on inappropriate YouTube videos that celebrated extremism and racism.
YouTube has taken a stricter stance against letting such videos run with ads, and splitting revenue with creators who skirt its content policies.
Logan Paul's suicide video was not "monetized," meaning it didn't run with ads to generate revenue, and it was later deleted amid the backlash. Paul went on to apologize, claiming the video of a visit to Japanese forest known for suicides was meant to raise awareness on a sensitive subject.
The apology video garnered more than 600,000 views yesterday.
Not everyone seemed to buy the contrition and real stars like actors Aaron Paul (no relation!) and Sophie Turner sent messages to Twitter protesting the YouTube creator.
Even Kjellberg posted a video calling Paul a "sociopath."
It remains to be seen if Logan Paul can weather the outrage to keep making money posting to his 15 million YouTube followers, many of them adolescent boys.
"Stuff happens and there is a short attention span form the consumer perspective," Cicero says. "But from a brand perspective it should cause everyone to step back."