Instagram is like a reverse-chronological document of your life. In 2014, artist Amalia Ulman concocted an entirely fake persona as an experiment, racking up tens of thousands of followers. In August, the creative agency BETC did the same thing, manufacturing the luxurious party-filled existence of faux French model Louise Delage.
Her Instagram account racked up 16k followers in two months, then revealed its hidden fiction via a message from a French anti-addiction group Addict Age, who paid BETC and production company Francine Framboise to create the account. An ominous montage of pictures from the account, slowly zooming in on the drinks always in Delage's hand, culminates in bold text: "It's easy to miss the addiction of someone close."
We're used to brands buying endorsements or space in Instagram celebrities' feeds, but a creative agency manufacturing entire personas in the vein of Ulman is new (not counting the "hot singles looking" porn ads that target lonely internet dudes). This is cost-effective as hell, according to an AdWeek report stating, "Hours after the reveal, Addict Aide saw five times more traffic to its site than normal. The story generated over 140 articles and became a trending topic on Twitter in France. Overall, Louise Delage's sad secret won 500,000 total video views across Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and posts by key opinion leaders ... all with zero media investment."
This strategy will undoubtedly be used and abused by all sorts of "creatives," from Madison Avenue executives trying to seem fresh, to upstart firms attempting to sell millenials to the highest bidder. Now that anyone, even on the mainstream internet, can be an anthropomorphized ad campaign, Instagram now faces the same uncertainty online dating has dealt with since the panoptic cerclejerk that is Catfish became a thing. Even when it's for a good cause, as Delage was intended, your feed has been reduced to an I Spy of sorting truth from fiction based on context clues. Thanks, advertisers.
Find new, nonfictional artists on The Creators Project's Instagram feed.