Opinion / Zoella’s 12 Days of Extortion

Christmas – a joyous time spent with family and friends, being thankful for the time we have with said loved ones. However, given the consumerist society in which we live, it perhaps comes as no surprise to learn that exploitation is the dish being served for many this festive season. Facing particular backlash in this regard is the ‘Queen’ of YouTube, Zoella.

Known to many teenage girls the world over for her extremely long videos of beauty and clothing hauls, make-up tutorials and ‘tag’ videos with fellow YouTubers such as brother Joe Sugg (Thatcher Joe) and boyfriend Alfie Deyes (PointlessBlog), Zoella seems to be capitalising on her constantly soaring popularity. In recent years, she has released her vilified, ghost-written and best-selling debut novel, as well as her Zoella Beauty range in high street store Boots. This year, under her Zoella Beauty moniker, she has released her ’12 Days of Christmas’ advent calendar. My immediate problem with this is her conflation of two separate Christmas traditions. An advent calendar surely cannot have just twelve doors when it is used in the lead up to Christmas from the very beginning of December, right? The calendar has received considerable backlash, particularly for its price tag of £50. A price this high implies a high quality product; the reality is startling.

 If you were to buy this incorrectly marketed ‘advent calendar’, you would receive a mediocre set of items: two 130g candles, a 30ml clementine-scented room spray, a frankly insulting packet of ‘make a wish’ confetti, a ceramic ‘Merry and Bright’ bauble, a pom-pom key ring, a notepad and pen (illogically packaged behind two separate doors), a pack of seven festive stickers, a small bag, and two cookie cutters that you would be better off buying in bulk from Amazon. In fact, one of the cutters in the set can be bought from the website for just 77p compared to just over the £4 it amounts to within her advent set. Following complaints, Boots have now slashed the price of the product from £50 to £25, but this decision has been made far too late.

The price tag is not the only thing that infuriates me or the rest of the population about this whole situation. Following several one-star reviews from parents as well as complaints to Boots, the YouTube star took to the internet in her usual fashion to address the issue. She apologised to all her disappointed and upset subscribers, explaining that she had no hand in the decision making when it came to the price and marketing. However sincere this may come across on the surface, if I was to create and sell a product and heard that retailers wanted to sell it to my young fans for £50, I would not be best pleased and would do my utmost to change it. Whilst Zoella seems to demonstrate to fans her horror at the RRP of her product, she doesn’t seem to have employed much energy in rectifying or reversing the decision before the product hit the shelves.

 Moreover, her apology feels cheap. Hidden at the end of one of her vlogs on her second channel, ‘MoreZoella’, as opposed to her main channel with her 12 million+ subscribers, it feels like a cop out. If you have caused such upset with your product, surely an apology video at the top of your channel is the first thing you should be uploading to help save your reputation and in the case of Zoella, your brand.

In explaining the reason for the inflated price of the calendar, Zoella constantly insists on her part in the creative process of the product. She states that she ‘is all about creativity’ and spent a year designing and thinking up ideas for the product, being heavily involved in that side of things. However, the crappy quality of the products and lack of innovation on offer does not ring true to her claim. She also uses the most hollow excuse of them all to make sure her followers don’t think she is simply trying to profit from their interest: ‘If you know me, there’s not a bone in my body that would make me think that way… if you know me, you know that.’ This is the most frustrating thing about it all: how do we ever really know what a YouTube personality is really like? We don’t know you from Adam; we simply watch you on a screen while you monetise your videos and subject us to advertisements left, right and centre. How are we to know what is really going on in the mind of a woman swatching lipsticks and recommending bath bombs on her channel? We aren’t, and we shouldn’t accept such a lacklustre excuse for such an exploitative ‘error.’ Using your fame and power to exploit your young fan base is not what Christmas, or life in general, is about.

[Originally written for Redbrick]

Image credit: BBC

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