Virallaughing stock, Fyre Fest, a music festival targeted towards upper-classmillennials with disposable income, became an internet sensation overnight.What was originally marketed as a lavish island getaway for high society,influencers, and celebrities, became an outright tragedy with one leaked photoof their “lunch.”
Meme pagesand twitter threads would go on to label this a joke on “influencer” cultureand laugh at their misfortune (admittedly, it is objectively funny). Though, callingthe festival a failure to meet expectations is a massive understatement. Thepromised private island was non-existent, infrastructure unfinished, artists ano-show, and the exclusive cabanas turned out to be a slew of flooded tents. Allthe while, this mayhem could have been entirely avoided if it weren’t due tothe founder, Billy McFarland’s, complete negligence, disregard, and outright investmentfraud.
Netflixdocumentary, “Fyre Fraud”, exposed McFarland’s irreverence towards consequencein pursuit of power and painted him as the sole proprietor to this runawaycarnival ride. And rightfully so, as he showed zero regard for how his actionswould affect festival goers, employees, and investors. As the date neared,McFarland’s lies grew and so did the bloated numbers of the festival’s revenuestream. Lying to investors to bring in money, covering losses, and essentiallyrobbing Peter to pay Paul earned McFarland a six-year prison sentence.
Rest assured, those who paid up to$100,00 to arrive to a “music festival” with no sign of food, water, shelter,or God forbid, music, were less than offended by McFarland’s sentence.
So howexactly was this foreseeable nightmare allowed to take place? Well, the answerto that question is what makes this story such a remarkable scandal. Marketingmomentum.
A scandalalways has a front man to take the fall, but usually has many other propagatingforces that go unnoticed. In this case, the shadow element was Jerry Media.Jerry Media is a marketing and production agency owned and operated by ElliotTebele. Most known for their astounding ability to turn a blind eye to ethics,they were just the right touch.
The companyis no foreign to scandal. Jerry Media got their initial notoriety from anInstagram page known as @f***jerry. They were able to amass a following closeto 15 million users. Impressive numbers, but what is less impressive is theirability to create their own content. In fact, their fame was built on the backsof uncredited comedians.
Making a @f***jerry post is simple.See a post that you think is funny? Screenshot it! Once you’ve done that, cropout the author of the content and use it to market whatever you want. Whenyou’re paid $250,000 for one sponsored Instagram post, there’s no time forcreative work, only plagiarism.
Recently, a movement known as #f***f***jerry is calling for a boycott on the account. Comedians and influencers are coming out of the woodwork on social media to oust Jerry Media for stealing their content and using it to sell products without credit or compensation. Well known people like John Mulaney and Patton Oswalt are calling for you to unfollow and “cancel” the meme page. Because, at the end of the day that’s what it is, a meme page that cashes out on monetizing stolen content.
Since themovement against Jerry Media’s copyright scandal, Tebele has issued a reluctantstatement on Medium claiming thatthey will make more of an effort to accredit the content creators for theirposts. After losing over 200,000 followers in a matter of days, @f***jerry hasdeleted all “anonymous” posts. Still, the company has not made any clearefforts to attribute creative compensation towards the authors.
When you’re making a quarter million dollars for one post, thisshouldn’t be difficult.
So, when Tebele and Jerry Mediaassociates were offered a Netflix deal to be executive producers of the FyreFraud documentary, they jumped at the chance to make a quick buck whileclearing their name of any involvement with the scandal.
The entire“festival” wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for Jerry Media’s abilityto mount a global social media campaign to propel McFarland’s empty promises.They launched an Instagram campaign, paying influencers like Kendall Jenner upto $250,000 to post an ambiguous orange box with the hashtag #fyrefest. Theseposts were all over social media and the hype began to build. Mixed with thepromo video filmed on an entirely different island with supermodels, whom thelikes of would never be at the actual festival, set the stage for the upcomingdisaster.
Even afterthe inevitable catastrophe was glaringly obvious, Jerry Media employees wereactively deleting comments that sought to expose and warn people of the comingnightmare. The marketing firm was well aware of the disastrous and potentiallydangerous implications that running the would present, but that didn’t pull theplug. Jerry Media’s involvement towards the end became, singularly, to obscurethe truth.
To say that the media firm was onlyindirectly involved is a gross misinterpretation of the truth. An accomplice isa more accurate representation.
Asexecutive producers of the Netflix documentary, the final edit couldn’t be cutwithout Jerry Media’s approval. How appropriate for a PR firm to have final sayon how they would be perceived by the public. While the documentary made themout to be another victim of McFarland’s criminal agenda, people are starting tocatch onto the crucial role Jerry Media played in deceiving the public.
With Jerry Media back in the public’s eye,the #f***f***jerry movement is finally catching the momentum it deserves.
Hopefully,Jerry Media’s example of fraud, deceit, and plagiarism will set the tone for anew era of ethical marketing. Flashy, offensive names and stolen ideas mightmake for an impressive short-term growth but might ultimately lead to along-term prison sentence with their friend McFarland. Promoting a service thatcan’t be provided will inevitably catch up with you… just ask Bernie Madoff.