The rise of the huge YouTube celebrity in the past few years is usually discussed in the context of youth marketing, and basically how the kids are these days with their YouTubing and such and such tend to care more about their little videos than traditional marketing efforts like celebrity endorsements. Well, now that grumpy-old-man logic can be applied to adults as well.
Via Tim Peterson at Advertising Age in the article "Here Are the 10 Most Influential YouTube Stars Among Adults," adults are becoming just as influenced by YouTube celebrities as members of the youth demographic. And these online stars have a much greater level of influence than the people we think of as 'traditional celebrities.'
University of Southern California marketing professor Jeetendr Sehdev conducted a survey of 1,500 18- to 59-year-olds and found that, among other things, YouTube celebs are up to five times more influential than other celebrities, because of the usual reasons you'll find in articles about YouTube celebs; they are more relatable, and seem much more like real people. According to Sehdev, "the appeal of YouTube stars is that the audiences feel that they own them, that they have an equity stake in them, that they actually made them."
Sehdev also cited a very specific difference between popularity and influence, with influence being the much more valuable commodity for marketers and brand managers. As Sehdev states, influence is what will "move the needle."
The article doesn't go into why these YouTube celebs are suddenly influencing adults, but if I had to venture a guess, it would be a combination of the ubiquity of the internet even reaching older demographics, and the fact that a lot of people who grew up with the internet are getting older.
So just who are the most influential YouTube celebrities? Well, they're the ones you see on other lists of the most popular of the YouTubers, which usually includes people like Jenna Marbles, who has 15 million or so followers:
Also on such lists and carrying a high level of influence is Prank vs. Prank, where a couple pulls elaborate pranks on each other in an ongoing campaign that has garnered 8.4 million followers:
For the full list of the most influential YouTube celebrities, check out the full list on Ad Age.