Viral laughing stock, Fyre Fest, a music festival targeted towards upper-class millennials 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 photo of their “lunch.”
Meme pages and twitter threads would go on to label this a joke on “influencer” culture and laugh at their misfortune (admittedly, it is objectively funny). Though, calling the festival a failure to meet expectations is a massive understatement. The promised private island was non-existent, infrastructure unfinished, artists a no-show, and the exclusive cabanas turned out to be a slew of flooded tents. All the while, this mayhem could have been entirely avoided if it weren’t due to the founder, Billy McFarland’s, complete negligence, disregard, and outright investment fraud.
Netflix documentary, “Fyre Fraud”, exposed McFarland’s irreverence towards consequence in pursuit of power and painted him as the sole proprietor to this runaway carnival ride. And rightfully so, as he showed zero regard for how his actions would affect festival goers, employees, and investors. As the date neared, McFarland’s lies grew and so did the bloated numbers of the festival’s revenue stream. Lying to investors to bring in money, covering losses, and essentially robbing 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 how exactly was this foreseeable nightmare allowed to take place? Well, the answer to that question is what makes this story such a remarkable scandal. Marketing momentum.
A scandal always has a front man to take the fall, but usually has many other propagating forces that go unnoticed. In this case, the shadow element was Jerry Media. Jerry Media is a marketing and production agency owned and operated by Elliot Tebele. Most known for their astounding ability to turn a blind eye to ethics, they were just the right touch.
The company is no foreign to scandal. Jerry Media got their initial notoriety from an Instagram page known as @f***jerry. They were able to amass a following close to 15 million users. Impressive numbers, but what is less impressive is their ability to create their own content. In fact, their fame was built on the backs of uncredited comedians.
Making a @f***jerry post is simple. See a post that you think is funny? Screenshot it! Once you’ve done that, crop out the author of the content and use it to market whatever you want. When you’re paid $250,000 for one sponsored Instagram post, there’s no time for creative 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 the movement against Jerry Media’s copyright scandal, Tebele has issued a reluctant statement on Medium claiming that they will make more of an effort to accredit the content creators for their posts. After losing over 200,000 followers in a matter of days, @f***jerry has deleted all “anonymous” posts. Still, the company has not made any clear efforts to attribute creative compensation towards the authors.
When you’re making a quarter million dollars for one post, this shouldn’t be difficult.
So, when Tebele and Jerry Media associates were offered a Netflix deal to be executive producers of the Fyre Fraud documentary, they jumped at the chance to make a quick buck while clearing their name of any involvement with the scandal.
The entire “festival” wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for Jerry Media’s ability to mount a global social media campaign to propel McFarland’s empty promises. They launched an Instagram campaign, paying influencers like Kendall Jenner up to $250,000 to post an ambiguous orange box with the hashtag #fyrefest. These posts were all over social media and the hype began to build. Mixed with the promo video filmed on an entirely different island with supermodels, whom the likes of would never be at the actual festival, set the stage for the upcoming disaster.
Even after the inevitable catastrophe was glaringly obvious, Jerry Media employees were actively deleting comments that sought to expose and warn people of the coming nightmare. The marketing firm was well aware of the disastrous and potentially dangerous implications that running the would present, but that didn’t pull the plug. Jerry Media’s involvement towards the end became, singularly, to obscure the truth.
To say that the media firm was only indirectly involved is a gross misinterpretation of the truth. An accomplice is a more accurate representation.
As executive producers of the Netflix documentary, the final edit couldn’t be cut without Jerry Media’s approval. How appropriate for a PR firm to have final say on how they would be perceived by the public. While the documentary made them out to be another victim of McFarland’s criminal agenda, people are starting to catch 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 a new era of ethical marketing. Flashy, offensive names and stolen ideas might make for an impressive short-term growth but might ultimately lead to a long-term prison sentence with their friend McFarland. Promoting a service that can’t be provided will inevitably catch up with you… just ask Bernie Madoff.