What’s that, is it the heating in your office overcompensating for the chilly weather outside? Is it hell opening up to consume us ahead of the impending nuclear apocalypse? Or is it the fire burning under Zoella, the UK’s most famous vlogger?
It is, of course, the latter, because, ahead of Christmas, Zoella has released an advent calendar. Not any advent calendar, but a 12-day advent calendar, because, y’know, the 12 days of Christmas and all that. It’s available at Boots for £50.
Behind each window is a little present These include:
a ceramic bauble saying ‘merry and bright’,
an envelope containing some glittery confetti
a star-shaped cookie cutter
a Zoella-branded sticker collection
a make-up bag
a Zoella-branded festive cookie candle
a Zoella-branded Christmas room spray
another cookie cutter
The calendar’s contents have been investigated by Jack Maate, another vlogger, who has a habit of slagging off the ‘“BIG” YOUTUBERS’ - despite being a full-time vlogger with over 300,000 subscribers himself.
He makes some salient points about ‘the exploitation of children’, as does GDFilms, another vlogger with 9,460 subscribers, who moans in a video called ZOELLA MUST BE STOPPED: ‘I don’t know about you but I’m used to going Poundstretcher and buying the pound ones because that’s how much I think calendars are’.
The nub of it is that Zoella, who has a titchy-young fanbase, is selling trinkets to kids at a really high markup price, using her stardom to get them to nag their parents into parting with a lot of money. Not only has she got the hubris to think that branding cheap tat with her name elevates the items to a status worth their RRP, but she’s overstepping YouTube’s parameters, again. We’re constantly told by tech companies that their goal - rather than selling advertising and harvesting our data to sell more advertising - is to democratise thought and speech, to give anyone the opportunity to access and create their own material and share it with the world. So for someone - other than these huge tech companies, of course - to try to make so much money off of a freely accessible site seems unfair. It happened when she launched her make-up range and it’s happening again.
However, she’s not the only one making money here - even the people criticising Zoella on YouTube are going to make money from their videos. And she’s hardly the first person to sell useless Christmas-affiliated gubbins. It's also notable that Zoella’s gender makes her more of a target than her male cohort. Somehow we expect more from her than her male cohort e.g. there is still available online a video of Alfie Deyes blaming a 10-year-old for her own rape and pregnancy, and no-one seems too upset by it.
So why is anyone surprised that Zoella is taking it one step further, creating a physical countdown diary to stuff with fluff rather than just a video diary to stuff with fluff?
Zoella might have all seeming relatability of a girl next door. She might also be a fantastic advocate for mental health, helping to teach a lot of young girls about how anxiety can manifest. But while her blogs seem personable, all we’re getting - and, for the most part, all we’ve ever got - from her is the saleable face of Zoella, the one she can live off, the one she bought her house with. She is a business, a very successful one at that - remember the time she tried to tell a story about empathy while using brands as examples of people? That’s her point of view, and from where she’s standing it looks great.
Once you accept that Zoella is the business face of Zoe Sugg, it’s impossible to get cross. Maybe Zoe feels an inner turmoil about the duplicity - on the one hand, she’s Zoella, the famous money-making business, on the other hand, she’s an anxious young woman who’s made a lot of money and fame off of a fledgling format that gives no guarantee of providing her with the skills necessary for a life-long career. But hey, she’s making a living right now, and who knows where any of us will be in 50 years’ time?
The knick-knacks from her calendar will have long worn, but if the earth is still around, one thing for certain is we’ll all still be spending billions on Christmas each and every year and, unless something serious is done about marketing towards kids, they’ll continue to strong-arm their parents for nonsense that’ll be chucked away come March. Kids have long been sold products stamped with the name of a brand in order to justify a bum-clenching mark-up price, and if people expected more from Zoella, they should expect more from every brand targeting itself towards young women. They should also shout about the brands selling useful and affordable things for young women this Christmas as well as note - laughing at the brands exploiting young women is a lot better than laughing at young women who succumb to the strength of these brands’ marketing.
That said, Zoella is by no means innocent - as a business, she should know her audience well enough to know that they won’t fall for this stuff easily - and she should be proud enough, as an individual, to only rubber-stamp decent products with her branding. She’ll learn for next time.
Until then, in an age where YouTube is used to publish terrorist propaganda and provide a platform for seriously strange videos that are freaking many parents - and non-parents - out, there are worse things out there than Zoella and the products she shills. However, there are also a whole lot better things out there than Zoella and the products she shills. Maybe get those for the young women in your life this Christmas.
UPDATE: Boots will be halving the price of the Zoella advent calendar. So it's yours for just £25! And here's a statement from Zoella: 'Zoe is incredibly proud of the Christmas collection and excited to see it in store. However, the pricing and in store promotional strategy of the collection, including the calendar, is at the control of third parties and is not set by Zoe.'
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.