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5 Takeaways from AAF Charlotte’s Fyre Side Chat with Oren Aks

By now, you’ve probably heard at least a little something about 2017’s famously failed Fyre Festival. The spectacular implosion of the would-be luxury music fest was the subject of both Netflix and Hulu documentaries earlier this year.

Last night, LGA teammates Margaret Bond, Katie Fisher, Joe Tolley and Gretchen Voth got to hear firsthand about the making of the festival’s viral social media campaign during AAF Charlotte’s Fyre Side Chat with Oren Aks, the project’s lead designer and social media consultant.

Here are five things we learned:

Behold, the power of influencers.

Much has been written in the wake of the Netflix and Hulu docs about what the Fyre Festival teaches us about influencer marketing. Aks touched on it during his Q&A, challenging brands to get beyond “please post this” asks by building more dynamic, engaging content partnerships.

Whether you’re working with a microinfluencer or Kendall Jenner, Aks is right: Ask for more. Instead of focusing on follower counts, look for creators with highly engaged audiences that are a good match for your brand. Instead of ho-hum content that screams “ad” (a cute dog sitting next to a bag of food, in Aks’ example), look for influencers who’ll put in the work to make posts stand out (picture that same cute dog running through a 3-second video of food flying in the air).

Get the right people in the right conversations at the right time.

There were at least three separate photo / video shoots in the Bahamas to capture assets to promote the festival. Aks says his team didn’t consult on or participate in any of them. The result? A dearth of usable visuals to feed the never-ending demand for digital content.

Whether you’re planning a photo shoot or a website strategy, don’t overlook the value of tapping the diverse perspective of the full team from the beginning. At a minimum, it’ll help you identify holes and troubleshoot potential challenges before they become threats to your deadline and bottom line. At a maximum, it could take an idea from good to great.

It’s still all about the emotional connection.

Despite a lacking number of quality assets – or any concrete details – pre-promotion of the festival was an unprecedented success. Case in point: At first, influencers were offered free attendance for themselves and two friends in exchange for posts – a deal Aks said the team quickly realized it couldn’t fulfill because of overwhelming response.

It wasn’t the ubiquitous orange tile or promise of seeing Ja Rule on stage that fed the Fyre Festival FOMO. It was the team’s (possibly unwitting) success in tapping into that basic need we all – and especially some influencers – have to feel special. How can your next Instagram Stories ad, campaign landing page or OOH activation make that kind of emotional connection?

Don’t know how to do something? YouTube it.

At some point during the lead-up to the festival, media buying responsibilities changed agency hands and landed on Aks’ shoulders. He was a classically trained graphic designer with no media experience and little time to learn. So, what did he do? He YouTube’d it.

A two- or three-day crash course can’t – and shouldn’t – replace a team that’s spent years honing its craft and expertise. But the marketing landscape is changing faster and more significantly than ever before, and it’s on all of us to stay curious and keep learning. A few of our favorite resources for continuing education: YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, eConsultancy and, of course, each other.

Trust your gut.

If you watched either of the documentaries, you were probably struck by the willful ignorance of pretty much everyone involved. Aks talked a lot about this – how after almost every meeting, call and other interaction, his team would look at each other and ask, “Can they do it?” And yet…

In work and in life, it’s a good reminder to trust your instincts. If a nagging whisper keeps asking if a pitch is too good to be true, maybe it is. If that feeling in your gut keeps telling you something’s just not right, pay attention. You can’t succeed without trust.

Have your own thoughts about last night’s discussion, the Netflix or Hulu docs or what the Fyre Festival teaches us about marketing? Let’s talk on Twitter.


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