In the Line of Fyre: influencers are selling their online souls for perks

matchstick burnt

Increasingly, advertising has become a kind of pitched battle between a) those who create promotional material and make it jump up and down in the corner of your screen like a hysterical toddler and b) those who try their best to ignore said promotional material because after all, if you give them too much attention you'll just encourage the little buggers.

The only combat zone where advertisers are well and truly winning is that of the social media influencer. An influencer is a brand ambassador or key personality whose impossibly glamorous and fulfilling life attracts and retains social media followers like fleas.

Influencers, by tapping into the modern FOMO (fear of missing out) epidemic, function as biological integrated marketing campaigns. It's the equivalent of the cool kid in school telling everyone how much they're looking forward to going to your party – or at least it would be if you had previously bunged them a Milky Way and a packet of Rainbow Drops.

And that's where the problem lies. The now infamous Fyre Festival recruited established influencers like Kendall Jenner and model Bella Hadid to promote the event in social media posts. In return, they received perks like flights and tickets (retailing at up to £125,000). Because these influencers did not "clearly and conspicuously" disclose their relationship to the brand, they were violating trade law.

This wouldn't have been such an issue if the festival had turned out to be the 'transformative experience' organiser Ja Rule claimed it would be. It didn't. A class action suit filed against the organisers claims that "the festival's lack of adequate food, water and medical care created and dangerous and panicked situation among attendees – suddenly finding themselves stranded on a remote island without basic provisions."

The fact that people swallowed dire material like this unintentionally hilarious promo video is a testament to the authority of these ambassadors. A cross between El Dorado and Baywatch, it mainly features instamodels sipping cocktails with their bikini bottoms hitched uncomfortably high to expose sand bedusted buttocks. Plus the running; there's lots of running.

What now?

There is little accountability with influencers. Hadid has issued a semi-apology while Jenner has responded to the furore by buy turning up to a party in a mosquito net. Neither seems to feel that they have any real responsibility to the thousands of people they persuaded to buy tickets. It is possible that they will face legal action, but perhaps unlikely as the industry is so difficult to regulate.

However, fiascos like Fyre mean people are recognising the truth about of influencers: these shiny people are not your friends; they just want to sell you stuff.

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