Fyre Festival: The Fun of Missing Out

Two documentaries, countless memes, and several (somewhat sincere) apologies later, we all know how not fire the imagined cultural experience of the decade was.

Released at the beginning of this year, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, by Netflix, and Fyre Fraud, by Hulu, take you behind-the-scenes of the spectacular rise and fall of New York entrepreneur Billy McFarland, and his vision, Fyre Festival, that superseded all realities of execution.

Everything promised to guests—the lineup, lodging, services, amenities, cuisine—didn’t exist at the time tickets were sold, and never would as McFarland played a dangerous game of catch up. Yet, a robust social media marketing strategy convinced the world otherwise.

And this, despite the festival’s veritable failure, was its one complete success.

We all use, love, (and hate) social media. You wake up in the morning and do your typical round through the apps. Is it Saturday morning? You’ll probably check Snapchat first to see what everyone was up to last night. What did you miss? Did it look fun? If you didn’t go, are you now eating your bagel regretting that decision?

The creators of Fyre Festival capitalized on this, our generation’s most unique and exploitable feature—FOMO.

A fear of missing out is a very real sensation. Jerry Media, and the other marketers behind the Fyre Festival campaign did their jobs so well that they brought to life, and sold out, a utopian fantasy by taking advantage of this fear.

As a generation, we spend over 2 hours a day on social media. We follow fitness, food, and travel accounts, and countless models, beauty bloggers, socialites, athletes, actors, and musicians. We were reached—and hustled and hoodwinked—because the Fyre team went straight to the source, everyone we love and look up to.

Over 400 celebrities and media personalities posted, at the same time, an orange tile to their Instagram feed, creating pause in a feed of constant simulation. The image linked to the now infamous commercial, showcasing the world’s most famous models—Bella Hadid, Elsa Hosk, Chanel Iman, Hailey Bieber, and Emily Ratajkowski, to name a few—partying on the beach of the breathtaking Norman’s Cay, promising a weekend with the best of booze, boats, and babes, all wrapped in one neat package, Fyre Festival.

The Fyre team had created a dream, and convinced the world it was both real and for sale.

Their campaign was brilliant and the effect was immediate.

The orange tile was jarring. It focused and retained attention, and the power of celebrity and the promise of experience emptied wallets. By making people pause in a world of continuous scrolling, the influencers created a frenzy as people rushed to make their very unreal dreams a reality.

It was the perfect storm—and those of us who did miss out can count ourselves lucky.