Is Jake Paul’s Business Model Harmful To Children?

The secret behind the Youtuber's millionaire status

Jake Paul, the twenty-year-old social media star, has been one of 2018’s most influential yet controversial figures in pop culture. Although his key demographic is children aged 6-14, his Youtube videos could be deemed inappropriate for young people, not just because of the mature themes but also due to his advertising practices.

Since Youtube is a relatively new platform for consuming video content, it is not subject to the same broadcasting laws that TV networks like the BBC or CBS must follow. The argument of the immorality of marketing to children has always been a subject of debate. Many believe that advertising could easily manipulate younger viewers as they are unlikely to understand the implicit objective of advertisers. This has led to restrictions in advertising standards agreed between advertising agencies and the media to avoid the exploitation of children. This includes strict limitations on how much a product can be mentioned in a show, if at all.

However, as a Youtuber, Jake Paul does not have to follow these standards and heavily takes advantage of this fact. He often uses “pester power” - the act of directly targeting ads towards children instead of parents - to convince his audience that buying his merchandise will make them “cooler” or a “real fan.” Since his supporters (or Jake Paulers, as he creatively named them) are young and impressionable, his aggressive advertising strategies allow him to forge an army of pre-teens willing to defend him in every controversy and fill his pockets with continuous cash.

The digital media star also created a lesser-known Youtube channel in 2016 called Jake Paul Biz with videos targeted towards businesses and creators. In one of these videos titled ‘How To Grow Your Business Using Influencers’, Jake talks about “equity and the value of adviser shares”. His language conveys he has at least some understanding of business yet this seems to be a far cry from the zero knowledge he now claims to have. Popular Youtuber Shane Dawson recently uploaded the viral 8-part series ‘The Mind of Jake Paul’ that aimed to discover if the most hated Youtuber really is as bad as he seems. In one of his interviews with Jake, Shane comically has to resort to using Spongebob metaphors to explain to Jake why his advertising methods are considered immoral.                                     

Although it isn’t inherently wrong for a Youtuber to advertise their own products in their videos, the extent to which Jake takes this (mentioning his merch on 10 separate occasions within a 9-minute video) clearly shows his manipulative tactics. His portrayal of himself - in both Shane’s and his own videos - as an oblivious influencer, who is unaware of the dangers of his marketing methods, falls short when it was discovered that he has also participated in countless business conferences. The purpose of these talks is for business execs to learn from the biggest influencer himself about how to use the power of internet celebrities to get kids to buy their products. In one of his old videos aimed at companies, Jake even describes his business plan as such, “When we sell our merch, we create content around it, that’s what’s selling it. We’re talking about it, taking pictures in it. That makes people want to buy your product. Content and products are the same thing nowadays.” From his own words, it is clear that Jake Paul is a powerful self-made millionaire who knows much more about business and the profitability of children than he makes out. He therefore constantly abuses his influence over children for the sole purpose of increasing his own wealth.  

Anjale VII