Festival fever spreads deception like wildfyre

By Nabhanya Morarji

Netflix’s latest documentary, Fyre Festival, was released Jan. 18 and caught the attention of viewers worldwide. Fyre Festival was originally supposed to be a promotional event for an app called Fyre, created by entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, that enabled users to book artists for private concerts. It was meant to be the music festival to end all music festivals. In McFarland’s own words, “It’s going to be the biggest event of the decade. I promise you.”

There was one question that kept coming to mind while I watched Fyre Festival – how shallow are we, as a generation, to be buying into this? People literally spent thousands of dollars on passes alone and they spent even more to get access to more activities that were advertised, but never delivered, by Fyre Festival.

With the help of a solid marketing and advertising team, Fyre Festival became the biggest event that never happened of 2017. Anyone that was someone was going to be there. This gave attendees the impression it would be an exclusive V.I.P event.

The promotional video for Fyre Festival featured top models and influencers such as Hailey Baldwin (now Hailey Bieber), Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. The video showed these models sunbathing on some beach in the Bahamas while sipping on cocktails and partying on yachts, just casually living their best lives. No big deal.

This marketing tactic was so successful that people started buying tickets immediately and the festival was sold out in about two hours. This highlighted two observations – that people will spend money on anything that involves hot girls and drinking at the beach and that our generation is stupid.

“The movie does a great job of explaining this: social media influence is the future of marketing and advertising because [it] speaks to this generation,” said Emely Paula Medina, junior advertising and public relations major. “The reason this gained such a big following [for those going and those who weren’t] was because everyone thought these big names would be attending.”

I think the only reason Billy McFarland was able to scam our generation the way he did is because we let him. It’s no secret – millennials are easily influenced. It only takes a few celebrities to convince us of anything and Fyre Festival is proof of this.

The marketing and advertising industry has been able to profit on our inability to think for ourselves. More often than not, we’re caught up with appearances rather than recognizing the fact that not all that glitters is gold.

While I think we are to be blamed for being a shallow generation, I am not defending Billy McFarland in any way. None of the workers that labored under immense pressure to put together the festival were paid. People did not have a decent place to sleep nor food to eat. Many were also stranded at the airport, trying to go back home. To make matters worse, McFarland’s public relations did nothing.

As the festival was approaching, the Fyre Festival team put in their best efforts to make their current conditions livable at the very least. However, everyone knew that the festival was no where close to what was advertised. They had to opportunity to come clean to distressed attendees, but chose not to.   

“They failed on the main rules of PR which are: be transparent and be straightforward,” said Medina. “Even after failing those two main principles of PR, I think their biggest mistake was that they never created a crisis plan.”

Medina also added that after the first day of the event, emails were sent out by the public relations team that admitted to the first day of the festival being a rough start. However, this was a lie because at that point the team knew the festival was not happening. She went on to say that a responsible public relations professional would have just been honest throughout. By not doing so, they have ruined their reputations.

I wholeheartedly agree that what McFarland did was horrifying, but if social media wasn’t such a big part of our lives, the extent of the damage could have been reduced for some.

Andy King, who was involved with Fyre Festival, has created a GoFundMe page to help reimburse the workers on the island that never got paid. The page can be found at gofundme.com/the-exuma-foundation-for-victims-of-fyre-festival.

Nabhanya Morarji can be reached at nabhanya.morarji@theminaretonline.com

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