What can we learn from those that fuelled the Fyre?

This blog post is brought to you by Emma Ninham, Account Executive, MAVERICK

‘Double screening’ – ever heard of it? Something we are all guilty of is watching TV while scrolling on our phones and it begs the question: are we ever fully concentrate on anything? That is until FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened aired on Netflix, and it demanded every ounce of our attention.

No texting, no scrolling, no interruptions. All eyes were well and truly glued to Billy McFarland’s delusional entrepreneurship, Andy King who was about to you-know-what to fix the water problem and the astonishing number of people who parted with hundreds to thousands of dollars in hopes to watch Blink 182 in the Bahamas – sad, I know. 

While there was a great degree of entertainment in simply watching the Fyre Festival unfold, there is also a lot of lessons to be learned – here are just three:


Manipulating authenticity

McFarland and Ja Rule paid macro-influencers millions to promote a concept that simply did not exist. The pair’s influencer strategy was undeniably convincing, but highly manipulative. By employing the likes of Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid to post a few simple pictures on Instagram, ticket buyers were tricked into thinking a residential area of Great Exuma was in fact a luxury island laced with salacious partying. The lesson here is that as consumers we should not accept everything on social media at face value; don’t trust that influencers have always vetted their paid partnership and do some digging yourself. Moreover, as marketing and public relations professionals, it’s vital to always be authentic, transparent and honest. 

Big Brother is watching you

The incessant need to photograph and film the making of Fyre Festival was a gift for us as viewers, festival-goers and social media users, however, an epic flaw for McFarland. The documentation of the rise and fall of the festival provided the American courts with a treasure-trove of evidence of McFarland’s fraudulent business plans and deceptive leadership style. The implications of this are simple – businesspeople and stakeholders should be held accountable for their actions and remember that technology in the digital age has added a whole new breadth of accountability.

Power of the human spirit

Don’t underestimate the power of a human-interest story.  With the abundance of macro-influencers publicizing the festival, it was ironically a regular festival attendee who tweeted to his 400 followers a picture of that cheese sandwich that truly extinguished the Fyre. If that doesn’t demonstrate the clout of social media, what does? While an expensive, well-thought out marketing strategy can generate impressive results, the democratizing power of social media means even those with a handful of engaged, meaningful followers can be just as powerful. 

One relevant example is Pamela Carter, a caterer hired for the event who spent $50,000 of her life savings to pay her staff, when the festival organizers refused. Using the sway of social media, and nano influencers, a GoFundMe account was created and generated more than $225,000 to support her following the downfall of the festival.

At the very least, there are some silver linings from the Fyre Festival. It has ultimately placed influencer marketing under a great deal of scrutiny, prompting influencers to be more accountable, transparent and authentic.

Emma Ninham