The importance of the digital realm for the marketing and advertising world is indisputable. Social media transcends distance with a single click, thus becoming an easy target for companies that want to reach a global audience. Since the launch of Instagram in 2010, many influencers have cultivated their brand and image into a personal business through social media.
Of all the months in a year, April seems to be the most hyperactive month on social media due to one particular event that attracts people and influencers from all over the world: Coachella. This annual music and arts festival that takes place for two weekends in Indio, California is objectively one of the most publicized festivals on social media due to the sheer number of celebrities and influencers that attend. In exchange for their services of posting subtle advertisements and showing their target audience that they are “having a great time thanks to…”, several companies have turned Coachella into a breeding grounds for marketing through influencers.
What used to be a regional Southern California e-commerce store became an international powerhouse through Coachella and its influence on social media. Revolve Clothing attributes two-thirds of their $1 billion in sales to Coachella and the select influencers that constantly promote their products, earning the unofficial name of “Revolve Influencers.” From Hotel Revolve to Revolve Festival, Revolve has become almost synonymous with Coachella, accommodating over 90 influencers from 14 countries this year alone. When an individual is paid to sponsor a brand on social media, it is within Federal Trade Commission regulations that the post be clear and concise in being a paid advertisement. In lieu of the FTC regulations, Instagram added the “paid partnerships with” tag so that brand partnerships could be visible and apparent. YouTube has also recently added a mandatory callout for sponsored videos.
Yet, when it comes to posts involving the Revolve Festival at Coachella this year, many of these influencers neglected to use this tag, replacing it with #revolvefestival and #ad. From afar, a promotional post with a monetary exchange can be disguised into looking like the influencer is having a genuine experience with no (monetary) strings attached. This leads to the question: is influencer marketing blurring the lines between advertisements and perceived authenticity?