3 Tales of Influencer Marketing Gone Wrong

Gianna Leto
March 13, 2019

Ah, influencer marketing. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it—especially when it comes to certain individuals who won’t play fair and brands who won’t pay up.

I’m sure no one reading this is a stranger to the concept of influencer marketing; after all, social media influencers in the digital age populated quicker than the boomers did after World War II. It’s like playing whack-a-mole: Every time you open your apps, you’re met with some random Insta-model trying to sell you hair vitamins. Then as soon as you think you’re in the clear, another shows up trying to sell you tummy tea.

Anyway, we all may be familiar with the concept of influencers, but do any of us really know what happens behind closed doors? As someone who has executed a few influencer campaigns in her young life (Editor’s note: See GiGi’s handiwork below), I can tell you there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes planning that takes place before any transactions are made.


This is where the beauty of the influencer contract comes in. Just like with any business matter, a contract is drafted up to define the terms of the arrangement. These contracts should be respected and all terms should be followed without hesitation. Mind you, I say should. Sometimes this doesn’t happen, and both parties are left in a dreaded grey area with some very unhappy campers.

Now, my friends, I present to you three times brands and influencers alike have found themselves in this aforementioned grey area and how you can avoid this happening to you in your influencer marketing efforts.

Fiji Girl

Situation: If you watched the Golden Globes this year (and even if you didn’t) you’re probably aware of the infamous “Fiji Girl” who hilariously photobombed just about every celebrity on the red carpet. Naturally, the internet erupted with silly memes that led Ms. Fiji Girl (actually model Kelleth Cuthbert) to gain an explosive amount of exposure in a short period of time.

Fiji played into the joke by creating a cardboard cutout of the model, which they used for a separate marketing campaign outside of the initial contract. Cuthbert got wind of this and sued the brand for using her image without any form of compensation.

Lesson: So who’s at fault? Fiji, definitely. Even though Cuthbert was hired to represent the brand at the Golden Globes, she wasn’t hired to represent Fiji beyond that. The brand capitalized on her image and then tried to initiate a deal with her after the fact. The grey area here is that before any campaign was launched, Fiji should have communicated with the model and got all of their ducks in a row before signing off on anything. Although the image they used was, in fact, an image leveraged from a prior event she was hired for, it still was utilized for a campaign that she did not agree to. And that is definitely a no-no when it comes to fair influencer marketing.


Snapchat vs. Luka Sabbat

Situation: Actor and influencer Luka Sabbat was hired by Snapchat parent company Snap Inc. to promote Snapchat Spectacles 2 on his Instagram account, which he failed to do. Sabbat was offered $60,000 to wear Spectacles in one of his Instagram feed posts and three Instagram Stories, which were to include “swipe up” links for users to make a direct purchase. He was allegedly supposed to post photos of himself wearing Spectacles at Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks, too.

Lesson: So who’s at fault? Obviously, Luka. The contract stated multiple line items for him to complete. Two of them including having content pre-approved before publishing and supplying analytics for the posts that he shared. Luka didn’t follow through on those line items, and to top it all off, he never reimbursed PRC (Snap’s PR company) for the posts he failed to upload to his channels.


The lesson here is that the process of choosing influencers is just as important—if not more important—than the influencer contract itself. The influencer screening process ensures that said influencer is a right fit for the company they’re promoting. Someone could seem like the perfect brand ambassador at a glance, but if they aren’t fully on board with the brand, product, or service, there’s a possibility that they will neglect minor details.

Fyre Festival

Situation: I think everyone knows the saga of Fyre Festival. But to summarize the portion of the failed event that involved influencer marketing, large sums of money were paid to a-list influencers who failed to disclose that their Fyre-related posts were advertisements. And that is a big no-no with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

Lesson: Where do I even begin? There are multiple lessons to be learned here, but the biggest takeaway from this epic failure is the importance of transparency: transparency between both Fyre Media and the influencers, and transparency between said influencers and their followers.

Fyre Media was never up front with the influencers about the extent of the project (they weren’t honest with anyone, really) and therefore, the chosen influencers had very little knowledge about the soon-to-be catastrophe they promoted. On the other hand, the influencers failed to inform followers that the images they posted on their feeds were advertisements, leading to all-around distrust and misrepresentation.


Well that’s all, folks. For those interested in implementing an influencer marketing campaign, please look to these examples on what not to do. Influencers are considered their very own marketing medium nowadays, and with that comes a great deal of rules and responsibility. And remember, you can always give ChatterBlast a call if you find yourself in need of a little guidance.

Happy influencer hunting!