Over the weekend, TikTokker Maya Basra was casually watching Vogue’s infamous YouTube series Beauty Secrets, which features celebrities and their skin-care routines. Basra learned about more than skin-care secrets, though: “I clicked on a link, and I think it just took me to Vogue Beauty Secrets’ revenue page. Like, I can see their YouTube commissions from all of the people that have been [featured] … I have a whole Google doc,” she said in a confused tone while showing the spreadsheet on TikTok. Obviously, this was likely a mistake on Vogue’s end and the link has already been fixed, but thanks to the internet, nothing is ever truly gone.
The spreadsheet landed on Reddit threads in no time and revealed numbers that have shocked users. The highest commission from a video was Lauren London’s at $3,121.58, almost one-quarter of the total commissions of $12,119.29. London’s routine does include products like the TheraFace, a game-changing tool for facial therapy, and one of the most expensive creams on the market, the highly coveted Crème de la Mer. Maybe those high price tags had a high affiliate percentage, or maybe people just really like London? She does have amazing skin and is aging backward, so I’d probably trust her recommendations too, even as an expert. The lowest commission appeared to be for Lexi Underwood’s video: $12.64 with over 86,000 views. A commenter on Reddit said, “Yeah, this is really low. $12.64 for one of them? I’m glad ppl don’t just buy everything they see celebrities endorsing.” Ironically enough, Underwood’s routine features efficacious products, from Topicals’ Faded Under Eye Masks to Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant. Let’s be clear — the subjects on Vogue’s list include big names like Kylie Jenner, Julianne Moore, Emma Roberts, and Usher. (And most publications, including this one, have affiliate marketing links through which they make money.)
Still, most of the commenters on TikTok and Reddit are more surprised that Vogue uses Google Docs to track the numbers, instead of actually being shocked at the numbers. Though people are still very shocked at the small amounts. One commenter on Reddit said, “For everyone surprised at these numbers … I wouldn’t be. I worked in digital marketing for a while and affiliate/influencer marketing really isn’t the obvious cash cow everyone makes it out to be. It can be EXTREMELY difficult to track reliably unless people click on the link in YouTube and then immediately buy (which frankly is just not how online sales works anymore … if it ever really did).”