What Tube Girl’s Success Tells Us About Advertising
By Natalie Sajal, Craft Media London
You’ve seen her everywhere - BBC, every major fashion week, even a coveted interview accompanied by a glamorous photoshoot in British Vogue! For most individuals this level of premium luxurious fame would take years to cultivate. Look at Amelia Dimoldenberg who started Chicken Shop Date 9 years ago and has only recently reached this level of fame, becoming a staple on most red carpets across the globe.
The success of Sabrina Bahsoon, more popularly known as Tube Girl, happened rapidly. Her first video on the tube with hair flowing in the wind was 13 August on the iconically warm central line. Her videos as Tube Girl get between 4M - 17.5M views (for context, Duolingo, a brand know for it’s infamous tiktok account, has views in the 300k - 1M range). Her first partnership was with MAC on 16 September, almost a month to the day the algorithm gods made her show up on everyone’s FYP. Then instantaneously she was everywhere, walking in London Fashion Week, at the Valentino show, doing a sponsorship with Bentley.
Her rapid rise to fame begs the question - how?! In advertising we are constantly being hit with 6 - 12 week SLAs, her overnight success says as much about TikTok as a platform as it does our evolving industry. So here are my takeaways.
Leave room to be reactive, don’t let a comms strategy or legal team kill your best partnership opportunity.
How many times have you seen a client brief that says - we have this creative, can you put it into the real world and make it famous. Most of the time it’s because we’re hitting audiences with information they don’t care about. We collectively forget that every view or extra second watched is a value exchange, we need to demand our audiences attention.
I’m naming 2023 the “Year of the Girlie '' from the Barbie Movie, to our undying support for Taylor Swift, Girl Math and Girl Dinners, and every single possible aesthetic being described as “adjective / noun” girl. So when a confident girl does something most women wish they had the confidence to do (and look glam doing it) that is the perfect place for a makeup or fashion brand to show up. Bold, Unforgiving, and Trending. Does it fit on a comms plan of Awareness, Frequency, and Conversion - nope - is it the perfect alignment for young women that exudes confidence - absolutely.
It shows the audience that we see the same things as them, we like them, and yeah we’ll even embrace them in our comms. Talking about what people want to see rather than what we want to say.
Trust of social media managers and partnership teams.
Yes MAC’s audience is on TikTok, but they’re also on all other social media platforms, and they watch BVOD, and listen to podcasts. How can you decipher through the noise and pick out what’s good content that deserves paid investment vs. what’s going to die tomorrow. In the world of TikTok it’s extremely hard, which is why the Social Media Managers and Partnership Teams are integral hires for a team. They cultivate a brand voice by knowing which trends to tap into and which ones are cringe worthy, they have something hard to define, taste.
Duolingo & Ryanair have created strong brand voices out of weird and almost downright rude advertising content. But it’s entertaining! It shouldn’t be a surprise that entertaining ads do better as they garner a larger emotional response.
If all the decisions these teams were making had to go past a legal team then these accounts would never exist. Long lost are the days of lengthy legal processes to approve ads and partners. If that was the case, marketing teams across the country would just now be posting their Barbie content.
Advertising loves a blank canvas influencer
We can debate about culture all day, but it’s easy to see that Tube Girl was an easy win, with trust and vision from brand marketers. A girl who does fun shit on the internet - it’s silly, it’s confident, it’s feminist. Due to her lack of social media, she’s the ideal influencer for a brand. She’s not a YouTuber with 5 years of content that you need to review with fine tooth and comb, just in case they said something in 2009. She’s not going to get cancelled anytime soon, and even if she did, brands are jumping in now before anyone has time to take her down.
Take the money and run
Time will tell if these quick reactive TikToks were ROI positive but it taps into culture - something many brands struggle to do without coming across as tryhard. As a young woman, I find myself cheerleading her, pondering what campaign I could get her on, and how I could pay her for her contribution towards my confidence. Reading the comments on her paid partnership videos so many other women feel this way.
Other brands' contribution towards Tube Girl’s monthly income is greatly appreciated by a crowd of cheerleaders behind her. If Tube Girl, or the next yet to be uncovered viral star, helps you build familiarity with your audience, I’d say it’s well worth the investment of time and marketing budget.