The recent release of the Netflix documentary ‘Fyre: the greatest party that never happened’ has attracted a lot of interest from the general public. And the Fyre Festival has led to a number of questions regarding the accountability of the influencers involved, the celebrities involved and most importantly the organisers of the event.
Fyre Festival used some of the most followed influencers on Instagram to advertise this ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. These included Emily Ratajkowski, Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin. With the complete failure of this festival on everyone’s minds, questions started to arise. Are the influencers to blame for misleading their loyal followers with a false dream? Should the influencers have done more due diligence before they took on the opportunity? Or is it just one of those cases where the influencers were fully misled by the main organisers of the event?
The influencers mis-sold a perfect dream to their followers
With a total following of over 140 million Ratajkowski, Jenner and Baldwin are just a few of the 400 influencers who promoted the Fyre festival. They endorsed this event without knowing the plans that were in place. The initial promotional video that featured these three models showcased them on a secluded island, frolicking in the sea, drinking alcohol and having what appeared to be ‘the perfect time’.
This well-produced promotional video was posted in correlation with the ominous orange tile posts uploaded by the influencers. These 64 posts achieved more than 300 million impressions in 24 hours. Millions of potential customers were inaccurately sold the festival. Plans were not in place, food was not arranged and so-called ‘luxury’ apartments were not built.
Fyre Festival influencer due diligence
This disaster demonstrates just how important a little research can be. As an influencer, it is their responsibility to investigate the products, services and events they are looking to advertise to their audience. As they say, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’. And as an influencer marketing agency, we make sure that any Chromo-Influencers we work with are credible and aren’t going to damage the brand they’re promoting. Likewise, at PMYB we ensure the brands our Chromo-Influencers promote are credible, so they don’t tarnish their own images.
Everyone involved in a promotion needs to be very confident that what they are promoting is legitimate. That includes the influencers and their agents.
For example, take the scandal surrounding ‘Betterhelp’, an online therapy provider. The site claimed that qualified psychologists are available to text, call or video chat when they were needed. YouTube influencers such as Gabbie Hanna, ChandlerNWilson and Shane Dawson advertised Betterhelp without reviewing the product or reading the terms of service first. Hidden within Betterhelp’s terms of services is a statement saying ‘they do not control the quality of counsellor services.’ Whilst these influencers endorsed the service, a number of YouTube creators such as Boogie2988 and PewDiePie also spoke out about this. They expressed that the influencers had not looked deeply enough into the product. The content creators were also accused of profiting from their follower’s mental health issues, selling them a misleading product.
Was predicting the disaster possible?
With Fyre Festival being a completely new endeavour, it would be unfair to say everyone involved knew exactly how much of a complete disaster it was going to be. However, influencers such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid have such a huge presence online. They have the power to influence millions of people. They and their teams, therefore, need to take some responsibility in the researching of products, services or events they are being paid to endorse. The management teams should have clearly communicated with the key stakeholders involved, especially for a new festival launch of this size and complexity.
Nonetheless, as the event organiser, Billy McFarland had only just launched Fyre, it would’ve been difficult for the influencers to have fully understood the level of fraudulence that was taking place.
In the Netflix documentary, however, Billy is surrounded by many of the famous faces who were promoting Fyre Festival. They obviously went to the Island a few weeks before Fyre Festival was scheduled to happen. Influencers took part in the extremely high budgeted promotional video. The video depicted an exciting sought-after experience.
However, was it clear for those influencer attendees to see that the organisers weren’t going to achieve their goals? Or was Billy just feeding them lies?
Many of the Influencers were paid the full amount they were promised for their Instagram content. Because of this, they probably had no doubt that the event organisers, Billy McFarland and Ja Rule were going to fulfil the promises they had made.
Who should apologise for the Fyre Festival disaster?
As PMYB Managing Director, Rohan Midha told the BBC ‘The reality has to match the hype’. And this was a serious case whereby the marketing didn’t reflect what was being sold.
Whilst a number of influencers, including Bella Hadid have apologised for the Fyre Festival disaster, a large number haven’t. Instead, they resorted to deleting their posts and carrying on as if nothing happened. As previously mentioned, influencers are paid to post advertisements. As a result, they should have total faith in the validity of the product being promoted.
Whilst a large portion of the blame can be passed on to the influencers, the majority of the blame has to lie on the main organisers of Fyre Festival. Billy McFarland has since been arrested and sentenced to 6 years in federal prison. He was charged with two counts of wire fraud and admitted to using fake documents to attract investors.
What else can be learnt from the event
Despite the dreadful event, the small positive that marketers can take out of this event is the recognition of how powerful influencer marketing can be. The role of the influencer was to promote and create hype around the festival. This was clearly achieved. The responsibility of fulfilling guests expectations was solely on the organisers. However, this was clearly not achieved and they are accountable for this.
Whilst the event itself may have been a disaster, the marketing behind it was a huge success. It created the required awareness of the festival and all available tickets were sold within the first 24 hours. As Rohan Midha said: This is an example of ‘how powerful influencers can be’. Nonetheless, when talking to the BBC he made it clear that the main focus of this terribly managed event should lie with the accountability of the organisers, who misled millions of consumers, as well as the majority of the influencers and celebrities who were involved.