Media’s fragmentation is hiding massive stars in plain sight

How can a massive media personality have such little mainstream traction? Founder of Thinkerbell and Decade of Action (DOA) Adam Ferrier investigates.

Do you know who Mr Beast is?

No? He’s very famous.

Here’s his search volume in Australia compared to both Russell Crowe and Isla Fisher (who I assume you’ve heard of). Over the last year he smashes both in terms of search interest, (he’s the blue line in the graph below). Even though Rusty and Isla have both been in the news a lot lately more people are interested in Mr Beast.

Click to enlarge

Here are some facts about Mr Beast:

  • He’s one of the world’s most popular YouTube stars with approximately 70 million subscribers
  • His videos are wildly creative and have titles such as ‘If You Can Carry a $1,000,000 You Can Keep It’, “Offering People $100,000 to Quit Their Jobs”, and “I Gave People a $1,000,000 but only 1 Minute To Spend it”
  • These three videos mentioned had around 50 to 100 million views each
  • He’s 23
  • ​​In 2020 he created the then world’s largest YouTube live stream event, a tournament of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ with 32 mega influencers, and about 600,000 viewers live streaming the event
  • He’s released a burger chain which I can’t work out is virtual or real world called Mr Beast Burgers
  • He’s a tech investor and invests in other YouTubers, as well as Fintech startups
  • His real name is Jimmy Donaldson

He’s pretty bloody amazing and you haven’t heard of him.

Now the only reason I have is that my nine-year-old son is really into his content and his content is pretty amazing. In short, he primarily draws a crowd by giving away large sums of money in very creative and interesting ways. He’ll challenge people to do weird things, or challenge people morally or psychologically to do something for the money. Giving away money like this gets millions of viewers which in turn makes him millions of dollars. This is so meta and vacuous it’s the perfect articulation of the modern content creator.

So Mr Beast has been doing his thing for a while now, and I’ve been promising myself to write this article for around three months. During this time nothing has happened, and he’s still completely underground.

However, in that same three months something else happened. A while ago I was watching TikTok (don’t judge) and saw someone doing a sea shanty, then another, and another. Then sea shanties were discussed around the office. Some people knew it was a thing, some didn’t, but those who did took great pride in educating those who didn’t. Sea shanties were apparently being sung collectively and ironically in pubs (when briefly such a thing was allowed). Then suddenly, sea shanties burst into the mainstream as Suzuki did a sea shanty ad (called Land Shanties) complete with a sea shanty album.

I applaud their ability to listen, to be tapped into culture, identify the trend, appropriate it, attach it to a brand, and play it back to culture in a mass medium, all in the time it takes someone to ‘put him in the long boat till he’s sober’. It was a nice articulation of Suzuki’s ‘For Fun’s Sake’ too, and I bet half of Australia doesn’t even know sea shanties are a thing… yet.

Culture moves fast.

Yet culture is also now hidden from view.

I know TV isn’t dead, but the peak reality TV shows used to get a top audience of around 3 million, it’s now around 1 million. Media is so fragmented that a star bigger than Russell Crowe can be hidden in plain sight. Sea shanties can exist as a massive thing in discrete channels – unbeknownst to the rest of Australia (until advertising does what it does and steals with pride).

Advertising that is a part of culture, and understands the zeitgeist is amazing. However, advertising that helps shape the trends its appropriating is potentially even more powerful. We know ‘fame’ drives brand growth, and getting ‘out of category’, is a great way to get stuck in people’s heads. So perhaps all I’m suggesting is keep your ear to the ground, and your eyes open, act quickly, and join the cultural conversation.

Although he’s one of the biggest names in the world Mr Beast is still waiting to be discovered.

Adam Ferrier is founder of Thinkerbell and Decade of Action (DOA).


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