WHOSAY CEO: Don't Blame Influencer Marketing for the Fyre Festival Disaster
Steve Ellis says on an essay for TVREV that influencers like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid shouldn’t be blamed for the organizers’ failures in execution.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of Fyre Festival—the Billy McFarland/Ja Rule-organized music festival supposed to take place last April on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma, until it was postponed indefinitely amid a string of lawsuits and investigations.
Since "several misguided marketers and journalists," including the New York Times, have pointed a finger at the influencer marketing around the event, WHOSAY CEO Steve Ellis took to TVREV to set the record straight about the botched festival and the industry at large.
"Celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and the other high-profile names enlisted to spread the word on Fyre Festival weren't hired to inspect venues, book musical acts and make sure food services were up to par," Ellis wrote, observing that ad agencies and TV networks don't usually share the blame when products they advertise fail to deliver.
While Ellis agrees that influencers should thoroughly vet who's paying them, to make sure mishaps like Fyre Festival don't happen again, they shouldn't be expected to take additional responsibility for the organizers' failures in execution—an outcome they have no total control over.
What seems most surprising to Ellis is the lack of any credulous attempt by the Fyre Festival and its influencer marketing partners to ensure that the sponsored posts were compliant with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines about properly disclosing social posts as paid of sponsored campaigns—usually by using the hashtag #ad. "Not knowing how to correctly post brand-sponsored content is unacceptable at this stage of influencer marketing’s growth in the industry."
In the end, the WHOSAY executive warned against demonizing influencers. "In an increasingly ad-blocked world, using talent creatively can deliver effective marketing pull-through," he explained, adding that "with that opportunity still very much intact, now is not the time to handcuff the potential of influencers."