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Slaying marketing with social stars

A serial killer has been preying on the young stars of YouTube and Vine — or so Eli Roth’s new campaign would have you believe. The director has taken to Snapchat to promote his new digital channel, Crypt TV, releasing a slew of images of slain performers. The victims included popular Viners Simone Shepherd and Logan Paul, who were invited to a secluded mansion soiree where they met their grisly fates one by one. The Snapchat Story unfolded over 24 hours, during which time viewers were encouraged to solve the mystery and unmask the killer by hunting for clues on Crypt TV’s Snapchat account.


The campaign works because it is on-brand for all involved. The gory, over-the-top visuals are a playful homage to Roth’s established horror style, while the platform is a natural fit for socially savvy influencers. Not to mention, Snapchat’s ephemeral nature lends itself well to a murder mystery with a ticking clock.

Collaboration has been a crucial component in the success of many of these young creators; they will star in each other’s videos, work together on material, and most importantly, support and promote each other. It is also not uncommon for influencers to turn their hand to other media after building a loyal fanbase in one area. Tyler Oakley is a prime example of this increasing cross-pollination; in addition to winning a Teen Choice Award for his YouTube channel, he has guest-hosted MTV’s reality cringe-watch hit Catfish: The TV Show with Nev Schulman, and word on the street is he has a book coming out.

Influencers themselves are more aware than ever of their market value, with an increasing number of corporations waking up to the fact that they hold the key to that all-important Millennial audience. Lauren Luthringshausen and Jenn McAllister are the latest YouTube success story, making the leap from home-made content to a feature-length movie with their buddy comedy Bad Night, which is released this week exclusively on Vimeo On Demand. While the film includes a number of Hollywood co-stars (including screen legend Molly Ringwald), the story places Luthringshausen and McAllister front and centre.

Advertisers have been partnering with this new breed of pseudo-celebrity for a while now, but there are still no set rules, according to Digiday’s Lucia Moses. “Using influencers to pitch a brand’s product is still a relatively new practice,” she says, “and new platforms are popping up all the time. Standard practices have yet to emerge, and new formats have to be mastered by marketers for whom these platforms are foreign, especially if they’re not digital natives.”

In other words, it’s not enough to simply pick a famous vlogger from a list and offer to pay them to endorse your product. The right consumer requires the right content, which in turn requires the right star. While influencer marketing is not an exact science, one thing is known for certain; the close relationship between these creators and their fans means that audiences can smell a shill.

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