YouTube’s biggest star, PewDiePie, has always flirted with controversy. But his recent use of Nazi imagery and anti-Semitic humor went too far for his corporate partners. On Monday evening Disney announced it was severing ties with PewDiePie, and now The Verge can report that YouTube is also cutting its business relationship with its most famous face.
Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg used the N-word on a recent YouTube livestream, and that has some people upset with him — including Firewatch co-creator Sean Vanaman. After getting frustrated with another player during a match in the Battle Royale shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, PewDiePie screamed: “What a fucking n*****.” In the video, you can see him immediately catch himself, which leads to him stammering out a “sorry” and then calling the other player an “asshole” instead.
Advertisers might want more stringent ways to police YouTube content in light of the controversy surrounding YouTube’s biggest star, PewDiePie, making anti-Semitic comments on several of his recent videos. Unfortunately, the problem is a lot bigger and more nuanced than PewDiePie
But ad buyers doubt marketers will pull budgets from all YouTube influencers
Influencer Marketing Lessons
Any brand managers who have seen the news about PewDiePie’s anti-Semitic remarks are asking themselves: what will we do if our brand ambassadors screw up? Don’t panic. Before you’re ever forced to cross that particularly treacherous bridge, commit the following to heart.
While brands don’t want to stifle their influencer’s creativity, they also don’t want to be associated with the hateful content that PewDiePie recently released. Having a contract is useful for outlining the consequences of unacceptable behaviour, but a swift distancing such as those above may be the only defence if things go wrong.
As YouTube’s biggest star finds himself mired in controversy, brands are getting a wake-up call about the potential perils of social influencer marketing.
But many marketers suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome. It makes them abandon rationality to claw onto the hottest marketing trend. For a sunshine-and-rainbows brand like Disney to partner with a ranting narcissist like PewDiePie is clearly irrational.