“Fyre was basically like Instagram coming to life;” that’s how DJ Jillionaire described the promise of the (now notorious) Fyre festival in Netflix’s latest documentary. In reality, this was far from the truth.
Despite ten of the world’s top supermodels promoting the festival in front of a backdrop of yachts, jet skis and bonfires, young, wealthy festival goers were met with chaos; leftover hurricane tents instead of luxury villas, cheese and bread instead of sushi, and Blink-182 nowhere to be found.
Whilst this sparked an investigation into the founder of Fyre – Billy McFarland – who has been convicted of fraud, the role influencers played in it’s promotion cannot be overlooked.
The absence of any promotional references in influencers’ posts of the festival, especially in the mass uploading of the ‘ambiguous orange title,’ has been seen as misleading, and in fact illegal, as a result of the compensation they received. Kendall Jenner was reportedly paid £190k for an undisclosed post that led to a considerable uplift in ticket purchases.
When it comes to UK guidelines, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) states “it’s important that we understand when we’re being marketed to so that we can make informed decisions about what we’re being told.” Therefore, especially when it comes to the younger audience these influencers reach, it is imperative that this transparency is upheld to educate and build trust.
It’s of little coincidence that less than a week after the documentary debuted, social media stars in the UK were pledging to be more transparent about posting paid-for content. Whilst said influencers were already under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for breaking the rules repeatedly, it seems to have put more pressure on influencers (at least in the UK) to clearly communicate the difference between organic and paid-for content.
Undoubtedly, Fyre festival has demonstrated the power influencers have to drive a brand, whilst also raising the issue of the responsibility that brings; as the founder of the Influencer Marketing Hub states, “I think brand managers and influencers will be more cautious and that can only be a good thing.”