The Youth Lab


We’re proud of our THINKHOUSE youth culture magazine, YOUTH (which now has been published twenty six times!). The latest edition, Celeb3, is written by THINKHOUSE’s own talented team and explores a new era of celebrity culture through the lens of reality tv trends, new gossip channels, the memeification of celebrities and more. They are as flawed as everyone else which can lead to a make or break moment, shattering the illusion for fans. This week’s media/pop culture frenzy over the Beckham-Peltz wedding is just one example of how celebrity culture continues to grip the consciousness of the masses. For this week’s 52INSIGHTS, we’re reflecting on the ideas presented in Celeb3 and connecting the dots between youth culture, celebrities and what that means for brands.


“The era of Celeb3 feels cautious. An overwhelming feeling of empathy thankfully prevails when we merely think about the celebrities who dominate the Daily Mail.” Billy Bunzari, Office & Culture Manager at THINKHOUSE

With all the noise around Web3, the evolution of a new internet, it brings along a new era of celebrity too, as broken down by Billy Bunzari by asking what has happened to pop culture in the past two decades. The iteration of early internet experiences, ‘read-only’ Web1, connects to a ‘read-only’ Celeb1; celebrities had distance from fans and very protected images based on what was happening in their PR world. The shift to Celeb2, where now we’re interacting back, like Web2 where we’re gaining more and more access to people. This was a more dangerous or intrusive celebrity culture, when it was common practice for paparazzis (or anyone who could afford a decent DSLR camera) to aggressively chase after subjects and spark intense reactions from their chosen subject. We all remember Britney, at a time when her mental and physical health should have been of more concern than how she was doing her hair. The 00s were a particularly toxic time for women. Even more recently, model and actress Emily Ratajkowski wrote an essay about losing ownership of images of her own body and how that impacted her - 'I have learned that my image, my reflection, is not my own’. Now with the shift to Web3, celebrating creators and owning your work, it feels a bit like Celeb3 is decentralized too - you do you on your own path and take what you're entitled to - a free and pregnant Britney, and new stars like Lil Nas X championing the BIPOC LBGTQ+ community through his creativity. This new era of Celeb3 will welcome an opportunity for humans (famous or not) to be more of your authentic self, take care, and maybe even choose more of what you share.


“We have never felt so close to the celebrity figures in our lives as we do today, particularly post-pandemic. We were in a time where the world was united through the shared experience of lockdowns, and celebrities were also living through this and documenting it on social media.” Aimee Doyle, Senior Account Executive at THINKHOUSE

When we take a look at the mega influence of reality tv, it has created an almost new genre of career - the influencer, a career choice desired by 15% of Gen Z. Aimee Doyle, breaks down in this piece how this has translated into the rise of celeb status from starting on reality TVto becoming loved (or hated) people you really feel like you know. The relationship between reality stars and their fans shows the significance of "parasocial" relationships. These refer to the kind of psychological relationship experienced by fans, viewers and listeners with media personalities, where they see media personalities as friends, despite having limited interactions with them. A bit like when you listen to your favourite podcast and feel like you’re joining a conversation with your close friends. We’re seeing a lot of brands get in on the action too in terms of social media behaviour where they are showing up engaging with media personalities and participating in online conversation as if they were a fan.


“Despite the death of printed tabloid culture, the primal need to b*tch about our fellow man still courses through our catty little veins. We’re social creatures after all, and our uncontrollable urge to discuss someone’s dodgy haircut is nothing more than basic biology.” Ellen Corrigan, Junior Social Executive

Who went on a date with who at what restaurant now? Ellen Corrigan lets us know the truth about the past, present and future of celebrity gossip. Looking at how the media landscape played out in particular with the rise of reality TV and a new level of celeb culture, the 00s are synonymous with a relentless, invasive style of journalism. As we fast forward to 2022, we still live for the drama and the goss, but our sources have changed (and thankfully with a more inclusive lens too). Accounts like TheShadeRoom or Famous Birthdays continue to grow in following. TikToker and Podcast host Shannon McNamara tempts controversy with her show Fluently Forward, where she discusses celebrity ‘blind items’ aka debunking or finding truth to rumours about the aforementioned celeb from the depths of the internets. Meanwhile, our obsession with peering behind the curtain can become a parody of itself. TikToker @davidneedstherapy ‘spills the tea’ about his time as an assistant for your favourite popstar, telling wild stories that could be true (but hopefully aren’t). Instagram account, the self-proclaimed curators of pop culture, DeuxMoi boast over 1.4million followers. The anonymously run account collects celebrity gossip and crowdsources spots from fans who DM their sightings at restaurants, bars, cafes, and more. Being a spot highlighted on accounts like this and following the gossip can be a win for brands: DeuxMoi’s celebrity dining spots end up being booked up and inspiring people on where to go for dinner, based on their fave celebrities tastes.


“Some people, or scenarios, are “meme-ified” as a means of spreading information in a funny way online, that doesn’t offend anyone in the process. The real issue with this process is when the line between people and memes blurs, and those sharing the content forget that a living individual is on the other side of the screen.” Niamh Martin, Junior Account Executive at THINKHOUSE

The receipts are there, even if you delete the post, it’s probably already been screenshotted, screen recorded and shared across group chats. Niamh Martin, introduces the ‘meme-ification’ of the celebrity, mapping how the lines are blurred between what we see from a real-time happening in a famous person’s life can translate to a viral moment, whether they like it or not. As we keep on sharing, we run the risk of losing ownership of our own content. For the famous, how they sit and listen in can become a meme moment (talking about you Matt Le Blanc, Irish Twitter’s uncle), and be embraced. Even for people who aren’t under the public eye can become celebrities in their own right, a viral meme becoming a fast track ticket to fame. Ultimately the choice of what they share does not belong to us, however, consumers are growing more and more demanding in this relationship, to a potentially dangerous extent. With this free access, people also run the risk of losing control or power of their own content. Brittany Broski, aka Kombucha Girl, knew she could use her viral moment to create a platform for herself, but needed to act fast to use her moment the right way - “I knew that we were on minute 14:59 of my 15 minutes of fame, and so I was just pumping out other content.” On the other side, those 15 minutes of viral fame can continue to haunt you. Demi Lovato is haunted by an unflattering photograph of herself, initially uploaded to Tumblr in October 2015 and becoming her ‘fictional alter ego’, still used to demean Lovato publicly. With the risk of going viral, it isn’t any wonder more and more young people are obsessed with how their peers react on social media, restricting interactions by turning off comments or replies, to self preserve your own image.


Explore the full edition of YOUTH here.

Own your niche - Celeb3 culture reveals how ‘branded’ personalities can be in the world of the rich and famous, reminding us how unapologetic attitudes cut through. The marmite reaction to household names is inspiring for brands who can cut through via unique visual strategies or strong tone of voice.

Lean into the conversation - Spotting the right moments to lean into online conversations with people who aren’t directly connected with your brand often comes down to strong community management. We've seen great success by brands engaging with organic mentions from celebrity fans, like Barry’s Tea connecting with Oasis’ Paul Arthurs on Twitter - building new kinds of digital relationships. By focusing on community management, we're able to authentically establish digital parasocial relationships and cement presence in online culture for fans and friends alike.

CELEBrating the flaws - For brands considering partnerships with high profiles, there is always a discussion around their history and reviewing previous behaviours. Of course, it is important to make sure investments lead to positive results and being connected with credible opinion leaders. However, it shouldn’t always be the limiting factor for choosing (or not choosing) someone based on a past experience. We all make mistakes, brands, famous people, regular people walking down the street, and what’s important is to learn from them and grow.