Fyre Festival: social media ‘influencers’ traded posts for lavish perks

Leaked pitch from the doomed festival shows celebrities and models were given flights and tickets for deceptive promotional posts, violating trade law

The disastrous Fyre Festival recruited hundreds of online personalities to advertise the event with social media promotions that did not disclose they were part of a marketing campaign, according to a leaked pitch deck.

The festival which was billed as a luxury Bahamas getaway for the wealthy, but descended into chaos and lacked basic functioning amenities brought on more than 400 influencers with huge social media followings to publish promo videos and photos, Vanity Fair reported on Monday.

Nick Bilton, the reporter who obtained the pitch deck, called it one of the most preposterous invitations for outside capital that I have ever seen, noting its use of cringe-worthy terms like the Fyre Squad to refer to festival employees and the Fyre Starters to describe social media celebrities.

A portable toilet at Fyre Festival. Photograph: AP

But one of the most notable disclosures from the 43-page document is the fact that hundreds of models and online personalities, such as reality star Kendall Jenner and model Emily Ratajkowski, were given free flights, accommodations and tickets in exchange for promoting the event to fans. As Bilton noted, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has rules in place requiring that influencers who share promotional materials clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands.

The FTC has repeatedly warned celebrities that they have to disclose paid sponsorships, most recently sending more than 90 letters to influencers and marketers after reviewing Instagram posts by celebrities, athletes and others, reminding them of the policies.

Its unclear if regulators have received any complaints about the Fyre Festival. The FTC did not immediately respond to the Guardians request for comment on Monday night.

The festival co-organized by rapper Ja Rule and described as being closer to The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies than Coachella in a new lawsuit claimed that its Fyre Starters posted promotions that reached over 300 million people in 24 hours.

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