It's that time of year again. As Love Island 2017 draws to a close, the unsuspecting, Instagram using, British public finds themselves having to wade through a relentless stream of photos of beautiful men and women (often looking ever so slightly more 'perfect' than they had in the villa not two days before) holding bags of detox tea, calming that THIS is the secret to a 24" waist, a teeth whitening kit; the secret to their blinding smile, a hair mask; the reason that their long glossy hair touches their waist.
They basically treat us like total fucking idiots. And they do it so shamelessly. But wouldn't you if you were offered £5k for lying through your teeth? Well, I suppose that sort of depends on who you ask.
In the olden days, you know, like two years ago, contestants went into the villa with the sole aim of winning and bagging the £50k prize money, but these days it might actually serve you better to do a Jess. Get yourself as much airtime as possible, get yourself kicked out early doors, start a rumour and then dance in the flames, exploiting the hashtag for all it's worth, bag as many exclusives as possible and rake in tens of thousands of pounds in sponsorship deals. By now both her and Dom have no doubts surpassed the amount of money that they would have done if they'd seen it through to the end. They know what they're doing, they've learned how to play the game, Jess is already at 1 million Instagram followers and is abusing the #spon tag three times daily.
And it's about to get worse as the people we've all been obsessing over for weeks, watching their every movement, will be let out into the big wide world and, since they are starting to feel like a very big part of our day to day lives, we'll be gagging for our fixes within a day of their release. We will swarm to their social media pages and I can already here the sound of brands rubbing their hands together, ready to offer thousands of pounds to some very fame hungry people, desperate to milk their moment in the spotlight, completely ready to disregard all integrity and the emotions of those who are about to be blatantly lied to.
But this concept isn't new, influencer marketing predates shows such as Love Island. Bloggers and vloggers rely on these partnerships to make an income and have been doing for years, the likes of Zoella have made an absolute fortune from it. The idea of paying influencers to influence people into buying your products is the future.
Recently the powers that be at planet social media have changed the rules surrounding these partnerships meaning that, when a transaction of money is made, it must be declared with a tag: #ad #spon. This is of course a good and important thing, for years paid partnerships were going unnoticed and undeclared meaning that thousands and thousands of people were effectively being conned into buying something that the person who recommended it didn't even necessarily like, As a consumer and a fan, a person has the right to know that their favourite influencers are being honest with them. Transparency is the key here.
But what I do wonder, particularly where weightless is concerned, if this isn't actually a rather dangerous method of advertising, even with the tag. Our desperation to be thin must never, ever be underestimated. A fact that I think the companies responsible for paying these people are all too aware of. If you're that desperate to look like one of your heroes, is a tiny little hashtag really going to stop you from trying one last ditch attempt to look like them?
'Why would they lie? Surely, to advertise it they must have used it at least once. What if it works for me? Surely it must be worth a try?' All these questions, these reassurances, these things that we tell ourselves. When the answer to our weightless dreams looks so easy and a person that you admire is offering it to you, you might as well try it, right?
Using detox tea as an example. I'd actually be inclined to make the following observation: this is the sort of brand who probably does not have a large pool of loyal, returning customers but rather a whole heap of women who decide to 'give it a go'. I've never tried the product myself but a friend, who did fall victim to the Insta-trap said that the tea itself might have actually worked, but only because it made her shit her brains out. Most of these products are just laxatives. It doesn't take a genius to work out that if you cant keep anything in your stomach for more than five minutes, you are pretty much guaranteed weight loss... in possibly the least healthy way possible. Word on the street is people have actually got pregnant after taking it, as their stomach is SO upset they shit the pill out before it's got time to work.... jussayin.
But in a world where *anyone* can be famous, at least on Instagram, this shit is inevitable. So Zoella with her 11 million Instagram followers says no to posting a photo with it, but that's no problem, because there are thousands of reality stars with 50k followers a pop who are more than ready to pick up the slack. It's easy money after all and is the very reason that so many people are opting to thrust themselves into the limelight. Two birds, one stone: Insta-Fame and easy money.
People are quick to blame the rise in the #ad problem on bloggers, but I'm not sure that's right at all. Although it's hardly a secret that bloggers work with brands, relying mostly on this income to keep them afloat, I think it would be fair to say that *most* bloggers do have a degree of integrity behind what they post, this is their job remember, not just a byproduct of it.
Paying someone to rep your brand is fair enough and so really is accepting the fee; girls' gotta eat. But I think it's very important that both the brand and the influencer start taking some responsibility for what they are sharing.
Putting an Instagram model in one of your bikinis makes sense, paying them to wear your watch, same deal. But paying them to lie about their weightless methods in order to encourage hordes of insecure women and girls desperate to lose weight to buy a potentially dangerous product? That's got to stop.