how to make an instagram influencerBack
Jennifer Lee O'Brien
August 1st, 2016. A new profile is created on Instagram. Her name is Louise Delage (@louise.delage). She is 25, she is beautiful, she lives in Paris and so she is, by some definitions, perfect.
In her first post, she wears a dark red-almost-plum, definition-sultry lipstick that is reminiscent of femme fatales or rich, happy divorcées. She holds a drink in her hand. It has the murky off-white colour of a margarita, but it could be a gin and lemonade. The background to her gaze, which is directed to the contemplative distance, is an incredibly ambiguous wooden wall, in the texture of: tree. She location tags the photo at La REcylerie, which a Google search reveals as an eco-friendly urban farm / restaurant / cafe / bar, so it is also, a Valhalla for Instagram.
The photo caption is: About last night…
About last night… is probably the most perfect Instagram caption ever created. It is the only Instagram caption in the history of captions that manages to be both entirely unoriginal and can still evoke definition evocativeness.
The ellipsis (a hollow trail to nothingness, as most ellipses are) is followed by the hashtags: #paris #parisiangirl #girl #summer
Which are, truly, art as hashtags. Consider the hashtags: #paris #parisiangirl #girl #summer. There is a watercolour in your mind forming. A portrait of a perfect Parisian girl, on a perfect, Parisian summer evening. She is so Simone De Beauvoir, so Amélie, so every French girl from a film ever. She is the singularity that is: Parisian Girl in Summer Contemplating About Last Night(…). She is exquisitely, ambiguously, aspirational. Her life is probably better than yours. And so, responding to some cruel, 21st century human automation which is making us all deeply insecure and unhappy, you decide to follow her.
Here, a sample of evidence from Louise Delage’s perfect, Instagrammable life.
Post #6: Here we have Louise Delage, drinking white wine with a friend and eating what appears to be toasted bread and deli meat. Overlooking rooftops in Montmartre. Caption: [sun emoji], [wine emoji]
Post #33: Here we have Louise Delage, drinking a cocktail, floating in a pool on a lilo in the style of a tyre. She is wearing garish zebra-patterned sunglasses that look so cool on her, and will never look that cool on anyone else. Caption: [martini glass emoji] Cheerz [martini glass emoji]
Post #36: Here we have Louise Delage, barefoot, carrying her removed shoes in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, wandering through what must be an enchanted-type forest. Caption:[cactus emoji] Jungle [cactus emoji]
Post #71: Here we have Louise Delage, walking down an empty street in Berlin. Although we can’t know exactly, we can assume from the graffiti wall beside her and a beer in her hand that she is feeling inspired. Caption: Wall
Post #142: Here we have Louise Delage on holiday in Port Manec’h with family. We know this because the caption is Family Time. She is captured just having eaten a dinner al fresco of what appears to be sardines, melons, camembert and red wine.
Post #150: Here we have the big reveal, after one month of double tapping thumbs all over an #aspirational #instacool #lifestyle. It is a video with the caption: Like my addiction. It is here where we discover that this is all a lie.
On the 22nd September 2016, a video posted on the @louise.delage Instagram account displayed image after image of Louise Delage’s photos and revealed their common denominator: alcohol. Which so many of her 65,000 followers had failed to notice, otherwise distracted by a #Parisiangirl in #summer’s perfect life. The truth about Louise Delage is that there is no Louise Delage; the account was created as a marketing campaign for an organisation called Addict Aide that supports people struggling with addiction.
“We know in France we have a problem, especially around alcoholism and women,” says Julien Levêque, Head of Activation at BETC, the agency that created the Like My Addiction campaign. “There’s a big taboo that you can’t talk about it. Even if you have a friend that you see drink too much, it’s hard to get them to talk about it. We took that problem and tried to create an idea around it.”
The idea was an Instagram account, the profile of a French girl that already exists in your mind. In 2016, Instagram influencers were already ubiquitous. Louise needed to be like so many of the rest of them — a beautiful person living her hashtag best life. They chose a model; someone who wasn’t already on Instagram. A “French beauty” who wanted to travel and had no issue with alcohol or addiction.
“We wanted it to be a copycat of the typical perfect Instagram account,” says Julien. Which means, as he says: “very much nothing.”
“Just hanging out or chilling with friends,” he says. “Random commentary under the pics and so on. The most important thing was to post a lot of pictures. We used hashtags to make sure people came to us. All of them were about tourism, places to see, Instacool, Instastuff.”
It didn’t take long; suddenly, Louise had thousands of followers. The initial momentum was created by having fake accounts follow @louise.delage. Then they had the account follow specific individuals: journalists for women’s magazines in France, people in the advertising industry and other influencers. “We also used other influencers to talk about Louise,” says Julien. “It was important for us to make it real.”
By the time the campaign ended, Louise appeared just as real as any other influencer. Over the course of 150 exquisitely, ambiguously, aspirational posts, 65,000 followed Louise. They DM’d her and commented, liked every post and for the most part, paid no attention to the problem present in almost all her photographs. The campaign was a viral success; as of September 2018, the Like My Addiction video on YouTube has been viewed over a million times. BETC won 17 awards for the campaign at Cannes 2017. It’s been two years and people are still talking about it.
“I think what is really interesting about this campaign is it’s not just about alcoholism and addiction, it’s also telling you something about your own experience with social media,” he says. “There’s a universal truth to it. Because when you see it you’re like, oh my god this is my life, or maybe, I’m following people that I don’t really know.”
We ask Julien if he thinks it matters if influencers are real anymore.
“If we knew at the beginning that she’s not real, it’s not a problem, because she’s still selling a lifestyle,” says Julien. “Bots are becoming more creative and creating one-to-one relationships with people; it doesn’t matter that they’re not real. The problem,” he adds, “is when you lie to people. As long as people know, it’s okay for them.”
Could the campaign be recreated with a new Louise Delage?
“We arrived at a moment,” says Julien. “We understood how it worked, we understood how to use it, we understood the algorithm, we understood how to react to it. But this was 2016. It’s moving so fast. We couldn’t do the same thing now. Because of Instagram Stories, people expect more. They expect to be in the lives of their influencer every day. They expect them to be present when they are sleeping, when they wake up, when they are doing their morning routine.
“We had a chance to understand everything at the right moment,” he adds. “But it was gone like that.”
Originally published in The City Talking: The Story of our [Filtered] [Plastic] Lives.