What constitutes an influential celebrity? Increasingly, the term appears to break down along generation lines.
If you've already survived teenage-hood, celebrity most likely includes A-list actors and actresses, or musicians with platinum albums who get plenty of radio play (feeling generous, and it may expand to encompass the better known reality stars).
If you're still a teenager, however, "influential celebrity" means something else entirely. That's the fascinating takeaway from a recent survey, commissioned by Variety and conducted by celebrity brand strategist Jeetendr Sehdev, which asked 1,500 U.S. teens between the ages of 13-18 a host of questions in order to determine how 20 well-known personalities fared based on their perceived approachability, authenticity and other qualities considered important in determining overall influence. A score (out of 100) was then assigned to each personality based on respondents’ answers to the survey questions.
The list included 10 Hollywood stars (selected for their high Q scores among teens) and the 10 YouTube stars with the most subscribers.
It wasn't even close. The online stars absolutely smoked their mainstream counterparts, sweeping the top five positions: YouTube comedy duo Smosh (which consists of Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla) edged out Fine Bros. (Benny and Rafi) for the title of Most Influential, while Swedish video gamer PewDiePie, who currently boasts the most subscribers on YouTube, came in third.
Meanwhile, big name A-list actors (Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Radcliff, Johnny Depp) can be found clustered near the bottom of the list. Strangely, the highest 'mainstream' personality was Paul Walker, who was tragically killed in a car crash earlier this year; he came in sixth.
While mainstream stars were judged to be "smarter" and "more reliable" by teens than the YouTube personalities, they trailed in characteristics often thought to translate into buying power, including "engaging," "extraordinary" and "relatable."
Perhaps most importantly, the Hollywood elite – even the pointedly down-to-earth Jennifer Lawrence – came across as "faker" than the Youtubers, who were deemed more "authentic."
“Authenticity is becoming more important among teens and millennials,” Sehdev told the Washington Post. “They’re more jaded as a generation.”
All of which means, of course, that popular YouTubers are a red hot commodity for corporate brands targeting millennials, and many viral stars have already used their influence in an attempt to make the transition from online celebrity to offline fame.
But as Variety points out, this leap isn't without its risks.
“If YouTube stars are swallowed by Hollywood, they are in danger of becoming less authentic versions of themselves, and teenagers will be able to pick up on that,” Sehdev told the outlet. “That could take away the one thing that makes YouTube stars so appealing.”