Liar, Liar, Pants on Fyre: Instagram or Insta-scam?

Fyre Festival

This weekend, along with millions of others around the world, I watched a documentary on Netflix. It had appeared on my Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat feeds continuously over the past three days with everyone telling their followers/friends that it was a ‘must watch’. I can vouch and say that if you haven’t already watched Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, then you must.

One thing that confused me the most was that I couldn’t remember ever hearing about this festival or seeing it on social media. It only happened two years ago, yet I’m certain that I didn’t hear one peep about it. What rock had I been living under? For someone so interested in Influencer Marketing, you’d think I’d have heard about one of the biggest scandals to hit the Influencer world?!

What was Fyre Festival?

If you haven’t yet seen the documentary, the story goes a little like this: Billy McFarland, entrepreneur, comes up with this great idea to host a luxurious festival on a remote island in the Bahamas (Norman’s Cay, formerly owned by Pablo Escobar) and charge up to £75,000 for tickets to party with the social elite. Influencers like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski were paid to promote the festival and featured in promotional videos taken on the island.

I think the main issue was that Billy only gave himself 6-8 weeks to pull this off. When the paying customers arrived (to an island different than was advertised), it turned into an apocalyptic-type scene. Festival-goers were running to claim tents, mattresses, toilet paper and anything else they could find because there wasn’t enough accommodation to match the number of guests due to arrive.

Billy owed millions to workers on the island, investors, employees and those who had bought tickets. As you can probably guess, the festival wasn’t ready on time, there was nothing luxurious about the facilities and everyone had been lied to but still allowed to arrive. All it took was one photo of a pitiful cheese sandwich from one attendee on Twitter to take the festival down. Billy is currently serving a 6-year prison sentence because of the catastrophic event.

Watch the documentary, honestly, it’s unbelievable.

The problem with Influencer Marketing

The role that Instagram had to play in the fiasco hooked me most. Hundreds of Influencers were paid to post an orange tile to their Instagram feeds with #FyreFestival with Kendall Jenner being paid $250,000 for one post of a promotional video (which has since been deleted). Kendall got into trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for not disclosing the post as an #AD. Out of all the Influencers that posted, Emily Ratajkowski was the only one to disclose that the post was an advert.

This is where the problem with Influencer Marketing lies. Kendall Jenner was given a cheque to post an image promoting a brand, but probably had no intention of attending the festival yet led her followers to believe that she was. How can we trust that any paid content Kendall posts is authentic and something that she would purchase herself?

Kendall Jenner Fyre Festival

After the Instagram posts went live, Fyre Festival had sold 95% of tickets within 48 hours. Had the organisers thought about food, drink, toilets, health and safety, staging, lighting, sound, line-ups or anything remotely important needed for an event of this size? Nope, but as long as the social content was out there, that’s all that mattered. Apparently.

In the documentary, the team talk about the importance of free press. With a dozen of the world’s most famous supermodels on the island to film the promotional video, the models began to post their own organic content from the island. There’s a clip in the documentary showing Grant Margolin, Marketing Director shouting, “WHY AREN’T THEY TAGGING US?! WHY AREN’T THEY HASHTAGGING??” – relatable, right? Once the supermodels did start hashtagging, the coverage started to roll in.

Fyre Festival Influencer Marketing
Fyre Festival’s Influencer Marketing results

Is Instagram selling a fake reality?

The purpose of Fyre Festival was to sell an experience (and to promote an app), taking the ‘average middle-American’ and transporting them to party among the rich and famous.

Everyone’s selling something on Instagram. If they aren’t selling a product, they’re selling a fake reality of what their life is like. Marc Weinstein, the Music Festival Consultant of Fyre Festival looked back through his Instagram account to when they were preparing for the festival and realised that from an outsider’s point of view, it looked like he was having the time of his life, working on this beautiful island, when the actual reality couldn’t have been farther from that.

Did you know that in Moscow, you can hire a private jet for three hours to take photos in and not actually leave the runway? Just for Instagram. Is that really what you’d call #Goals or living your best life? Why would you want to spend so much money trying to impress people you don’t even know?? The world’s gone mad, I tell you.

Is Influencer Marketing losing its credibility?

With the recent Instagram post of an egg beating Kylie Jenner’s record for most-liked picture on Instagram, is Influencer Marketing being made a mockery of? Can any of us set up an account, ask for millions of likes and receive them?

Social experiments like the above on Instagram, the fake #1 restaurant on Trip Advisor or even Rage Against the Machine beating The X Factor winner for Christmas number one show how easy Joe Public can make a difference to different platforms. Sometimes you don’t need to be an Influencer to be influential.

I think examples like this with the celebrity-type Influencers show that the way forward is with micro-Influencers. Micro-Influencers have a much smaller, yet engaged audience. The ‘reach’ may not be too great, but engagement and actions may be greater. Brands and clients may want to see large numbers and ‘go viral’, but a large reach doesn’t always equal large engagement.

Kendall Jenner has had enough blunders working with Pepsi and Fyre Festival, if I was her I would stick to her day job. Whatever that is…

Fyre Festival
A festival of luxury…


  1. January 22, 2019 / 3:37 pm

    Omg I can’t believe you didn’t hear about this when it all went down. Some of the attendees were comparing it to the Hunger Games and everything. So dramatic haha – but to be fair to them it did sound like a nightmare!


    • orlaghclaire
      January 23, 2019 / 6:42 pm

      Didn’t hear a word about it! Don’t know if it’s because I don’t follow any of the models or keep up with the Kardashians etc. haha – think everyone will know about it now though thanks to the two documentaries! xx

      • January 23, 2019 / 6:44 pm

        To be honest I heard about it mostly cause everyone was retweeting and taking the micj and saying they couldn’t believe someone had tricked a load of influencers like this 😂😂 and yesss I need to watch the doc… is it good? X

        • orlaghclaire
          January 24, 2019 / 11:39 am

          So good! Really shows the power that Influencers have plus the negative effects collaborations can have too! It’s also shows how crazy people can be when they have more money than sense lol, which is clearly the case for Billy!

          • January 24, 2019 / 7:49 pm

            Influencer fraud is gonna be huge soon. They’re gonna start getting fined loads, and so they should!!

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