Improved broadband in South Africa has seen the rise of our very own YouTube stars, including the wacky dolly bird from Somerset-West: SA’s very first YouTube star comedy character. In the latest instalment of her “Backstory” series, Gill Moodie writes exclusively for Journalism.co.za.
As broadband has improved in South Africa, video content has taken off, giving rise to our very own YouTube stars. The most recent Social Media Landscape survey told us that YouTube users in SA reached an active user base of 7.2-million last year – a 53% growth from the past year. Digital natives like the teenagers Caspar Lee and Nadav Ossendryver, who started Kruger Sightings, both play on an international stage but this year we’ve seen the emergence of SA’s very first YouTube comedy character: the ultimate dolly bird, Suzelle DIY.
With her wannabe posh Somerset-West airs, wacky DIY life hacks and the ever-silent friend, Marianne, Suzelle’s skiets now pick up 40 000 views on the first day of launch. Many of her videos over the past year have passed 300 000 views and she recently made it on to the TV screen with a clever Checkers advert featuring South African celebrity Nataniël. (Her YouTube channel has more than 48 000 subscribers.)
Suzelle is the creation of Julia Anastasopoulos, a Johannesburg-born actress, illustrator and designer. Now living in Cape Town, she co-produces Suzelle with her boyfriend, Ari Kruger, who also directs the series.
A University of Cape Town drama graduate, Anastasopoulos has worked in theatre and film, set and costume design for theatre, product and lighting design, illustration for books, websites, posters, clothing, stationery and textiles, wall murals and wallpaper, graphic design and art installations. Her work has been exhibited locally and abroad and her most recent drawing project has been a series of large illustrated print murals for the City of Cape Town MyCiti Bus stations. She has also illustrated two children’s books.
Journalism.co.za interviewed Anastasopoulos via email last week about the thinking behind the online phenomenon (with some of her most fun YouTube vids interspersed, of course).
Q: What’s the background to and thinking behind the creation of the Suzelle character?
A: Suzelle parodies the idea of the online tutorial. You meet such amazing characters when searching for how to do something. That was our inspiration.
Q: She is obviously not just a fun project as Suzelle is starting to bring in revenue with the latest Checkers ad, for instance, and I also see there are the beginnings of an online shop plus a coffee table book in the making. Did you start Suzelle with a business plan in mind?
A: No. It started as a fun project so we never had any brand strategy or business plan in mind. Now that the brand has grown into something bigger we are looking at all the new ways we can bring in revenue, which is very exciting.
Q: Now that money is coming in, what other possible revenue streams might Suzelle DIY expand into?
A: Merchandise and possibly a TV show and a live show hopefully at some stage.
Q: Why do you think Suzelle has been a YouTube hit, i.e., what is it about her brand and the way you have marketed her that is resonating with people?
A: I think it is a number of factors that have made it successful:
1). The webisodes are entertaining and useful so people can really learn something from the DIY;
2). That she is a uniquely South African character that we can all relate to;
3). The fact that it’s comedy. People love a bit of comedy; and
4). The fact that the episodes are very short makes them share-able and and snack-able.
Q: YouTube (and video content in general) is taking off online in South Africa. Can you share some insights into making a good YouTube vid and how you market it?
A: It is very important to market it across as many social media platforms as you can. We use Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to market our videos. We also try and find fun ways to engage with our audience like posting pictures and encouraging our fans to take “Suzelfies”.
Q: What are you most pleased about how Suzelle has turned out as an online phenomenon?
A: The thing I’m most pleased about is that it started from a place of fun and experimentation and it has grown so unexpectedly. The fact that we are still having fun and now we’re starting to earn a living from it makes us feel empowered as artists.
Q: Is there anything you could do better?
A: We are learning all the time. It’s such a new medium and no one has the rules yet. It’s an exciting space to be in.
Q: And the last question is for Marianne. What do you REALLY think of Suzelle?
A: We really are BFF’s.
- Vids, vlogs and podcasts on the rise in SA newsrooms, Journalism.co.za, December 2014
- SA news organisations need to get the picture, Journalism.co.za, Nov 2014
- How to make your smartphone work for you, Journalism.co.za, May 2014