As recriminations fly, and its organisers are hit with a $100m lawsuit, the fall-out from Fyre Festival continues.
For the unfamiliar, the event in the Bahamas was billed as a kind of luxury Caribbean Coachella, plugged across Instagram and Twitter by the likes of Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and 400 other big social media influencers.
However, revellers arrived to find the sumptuous cabanas advertised were like refugee tents in a squalid field, and the celebrity chef cuisine consisted of slices of plastic cheese on cardboard bread. The lawsuit brought by one of the attendees claims the event was “closer to The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies than Coachella”.
So whose fault was it? Certainly not the people who’d bought tickets (priced between $1,500 and $100,000) after believing the celebrity influencers who’d uploaded myriad glossy videos and photos promoting the bash.
The influencers were all being paid to do so, either in hard cash or with free tickets and flights to the festival. However, none of them said so – strictly against the law laid down by US regulator the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which states posts have to “clearly and conspicuously” reveal their relationships with brands.
Right up until this house of cards collapsed, influencers were still uploading “pouting around swimming pools” posts about the festival. But once the scale of the fiasco became apparent, they couldn’t hit their delete buttons fast enough.
They sold their souls but had no idea about the lie they were buying into. Jenner was paid $250,000 to post about the event according to a Fyre employee – for that, you’d have thought she’d do some research into what she was promoting to her tens of millions of followers. There have been no real apologies from any of the 400 odd influencers either.
But celebrity influencers do nothing but unashamedly sell us a myth. Their smoke and mirrors lives on-screen are edited and seen through filters. They will put their names to any product to make a buck and won’t be honest when they’re advertising.
Influencer marketing is still nascent, and for it to build credibility and trust, we need to be increasingly sceptical about celebrity influencers – Instamodels and Twitter stars – and instead consider micro-influencers; those with more than 3,000 followers but less than 100,000.
In this era of so–called fake news, authentic online experiences are more important than ever. Turning to people we trust – those who genuinely love and understand what they’re posting about, and are honest when they do so – is a step in the right direction.
Jules Lund is founder of TRIBE.