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Has Fyre Festival Burnt Influencer Marketing to the Ground?


There are major lessons to be learnt from Netflix’s latest phenomenon, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. One of which is that if you’re willing to pay $250,000 just to go and party with Kendall Jenner on a beach, you’re bound to get your fingers burnt. In the marketing world, it’s taught us a lot about the power of influencers.

What is Fyre Festival?

Fyre was supposed to be a luxury music festival where ‘Instagram came to life’. It was promised to take place on a private island in the Bahamas with festival-goers flying VIP on a private jet to be met with white, sandy beaches and gourmet catering. In reality, they found damp tents, cheese sandwiches and were deserted on an island with no music to be heard.

The concert-goers were seduced by ads featuring some of the biggest social media influencers including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Elsa Hosk and many, many more. The influencers posted a single image on their Instagram of an orange square. That’s it. Within 24 hours of the orange square’s appearance, 95% of the tickets had sold out. Yet, the showbiz group are not entirely to blame for Fyre Festival going up in flames and neither have they ‘killed’ influencer marketing, here’s why…

Influencer Marketing is a central marketing strategy

Yes okay, the influencers are responsible for the ticket sales of Fyre Festival. That’s the job of an influencer – to influence sales. Influencer marketing drives awareness and purchase intent to anything advertised. Fyre used the influencers as their main form of marketing and whilst the festival may have failed, the marketing worked.

The facts: Influencer Marketing is the fastest-growing online customer acquisition method, and the ROI has now actually surpassed print marketing.

Transparency is essential

Transparency and compliance cannot be ignored when it comes to paid posts and surprise surprise, it was when it came to Fyre Festival. Of the 400 ‘Fyre-Starters’, Emily Ratajkowski was one of the only ones to include ‘#ad’ in her Instagram post. With Jenner being paid $250,000 for her post and not disclosing this as an #ad, she is coming under ‘fyre’ as a fraudster, despite the fact she also believed the festival was 100% legitimate.

The facts: The Federal Trade Commision (FTC) requires this disclosure on any type of paid-for post and as a result, has begun regulating and imposing penalties on influencers who ignore this. For a full explanation on all the relevant social media #ad rules, check out our other blog here.

Authenticity is key

After the backlash of the paid Instagram ads, it must be said that the influencers involved spoke honestly about the festival as soon as they became aware of its lies. All advertising posts were deleted from their accounts, and they actually warned thousands from attending the festival. Their authentic reactions acted as involuntary damage control.

The facts: 70% of teens trust influencers more than they trust traditional celebs, meaning that the influencers authenticity won’t have gone unnoticed.

Fyre may have left social media users apprehensive about what advertisements to trust online, but all this blame goes on the creator of the festival for over promising and not delivering. Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere. Especially with the rise of paid ads.

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