When ‘Instagram vs reality’ comes to life: The power of influencer marketing

Netflix's Fyre Festival documentary has revealed the true power of influencer marketing - but at what cost? Brisbane-based consultant Orla Kelly lays out the facts.

Netflix recently re-opened some old wounds for Fyre Festival organisers Billy McFarland and Ja- Rule with its documentary, Fyre: the greatest party that never happened. Festival ticket-holders were promised a three-day party on a private beach on the island of Exuma in the Bahamas, an immersive music festival, a host of celebrity guests in attendance, white sand beaches, private luxury beach houses, gourmet food and a VIP experience.

What did they get when they arrived on the island? Tents that resembled disaster relief accommodation, hours waiting at Miami airport, collecting their luggage from a shipping container, no entertainment, poorly-constructed cheese sandwiches, and worst of all for the rich kids of Instagram: Kendall Jenner was nowhere to be seen.

How do marketers and influencers overcome such PR disasters? Are we as consumers finally becoming more savvy to the power of influencers?

Influencer marketing is paid advertising. Kendall Jenner was reportedly paid $250,000 for one post to market the festival. Although the models and influencers claim that they were ignorant to the fact that this festival would never materialise, they probably wouldn’t have done extensive research with that $ sign on the cheque.

Often, we see influencers promote items and services that you would never think aligns with their brand: insurance, cleaning products or a particular brand of car. At what price are they willing to lose their authenticity and go down the #ad vortex?

Fyre Festival was the classic case of ‘Instagram vs reality’ come to life. It can be so easy for us to trust social media for what it is at face value but remember, only the best moments make it on there and it can almost too easy to portray a life that does not exist on social media. Influencers and models who promoted this festival quickly removed their posts in the aftermath, but unfortunately, Fyre Festival was not just another post that could be deleted.

Influencers have the power to persuade people to buy tickets to an event no-one ever heard of. Would you buy tickets in excess of $3,000 to a festival that you have never heard of if you heard it through a generic TV/radio ad? No. Would you buy it a ticket if Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid would be there and they posted about it? Maybe. Influencers now have the power to create awareness but also drive purchase intent.

The international joke that was Fyre Festival has achieved one positive outcome for consumers: the demand for more authentic, transparent and original content from influencers. Marketers and brands need to decide if influencer marketing is right for them and they, along with influencers, need to take more responsibility for what they are promoting.

Orla Kelly is a Brisbane-based consultant with a background in marketing.


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