DFTBA: Don’t Forget to Badly Advertise?

In the most recent Vlogbrothers video, “Do Businesses Need to Suck?”, we get John Green in his office with posters from DFTBA behind him. This, I don’t mind. It’s common to see vloggers have posters as backgrounds, either advertising their own things, or things they are fans of. What I did mind in this video, was the content.

In this video, John discusses how many people, especially Nerdfighters, do not necessarily like for-profit businesses, “even though we like many of the things they make, like iPads and Dr. Pepper.” He says, “I’m really interested as to why for-profit companies feel kind of evil and icky to us, particularly because I am co-owner of one such company.” As the co-owner of DFTBA, the online retailer of music content and swag pertaining to all things nerdy and/or awesome, John struggles with how to run a for-profit company and how to make it suck less. He then proceeds to talk about many of the Nerdfighters around the world who have designed posters and t-shirts (showing a picture of each poster and t-shirt while he talks about it) and how they are earning more than they would if they sold their items in other websites, like Etsy. He proceeds to show that the designers in question can pay for higher education and other necessities.

John, I name thee Marketer. By talking about how well your company treats your workers, and showing all the admittedly fantastic designs your workers have come up with, you are essentially advertising for your business. This, I wouldn’t mind if you were the CEO of Apple or Dr. Pepper. However, John, on Youtube, you are a vlogger. Vlogging consists of creating original content about things that interest you and interesting things that happen to you to provide entertainment or awareness to your viewers. This is why I was okay when you talked about “The Fault in Our Stars” in many of your videos, and even read aloud from the novel. Even though this, too, was blatant advertising, and I was persuaded to pre-order a copy of the novel, I was still entertained. In this most recent video, John Green did not provide his viewers with entertainment and the only thing I was made aware of was that John Green wants me to buy things from his website.

To be honest, it felt like he was selling out a little. In Hank’s previous video, Hank talked about the importance of voting, and why you should vote if you are old enough to. He talked so passionately about it that even a French llama could see the authenticity of it. John’s video, on the other hand, did not feel nearly as genuine. I’m glad he passionately talked about business ethics and Nerdfighting and how DFTBA grew, but the amount of sheer advertising in this ruined it for me.

By listing all the things Nerdfighting that are sold on DFTBA, this felt more like an infomercial on how great DFTBA is. And the hardcore Nerdfighters who want the t-shirts, posters, and music sold on DFTBA would probably have already have known that, through John and Hank’s twitters, facebook accounts, tumblrs, and yes, even the occasional mention on youtube. Having an entire video dedicated to this was absolutely pointless.

That’s not to say I wasn’t thoroughly convinced by this video. As a quote-loving Nerdfighter, I wanted all the things in this video, and was further convinced because of how people all the way from Malaysia and Kazakhstan were able to sell their merchandise and could be brought together through Nerdfighteria.

However, despite the underlying theme of “for-profit business can suck less,” this video was a little too self-centered and advertised way too much. If I wanted to watch advertisements, I’d watch television.

I won’t stop watching the vlogbrothers, and I won’t stop Nerdfighting, but this made me lose a little respect for John. I hope that in the future, the vlogbrothers stick to making really well-made and thought-provoking videos that don’t overtly advertise their own companies.