Fake Famous documentary by Nick Bilton

Fake Famous documentary by Nick Bilton

Introduction by Eleonora de Gray, Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE

Brilliant independent journalist Nick Bilton spent 2 years for a social experiment that reveals the true nature of influencer fame. The documentary “Fake Famous” aired in February this year on HBO.

In this introduction I’d like to show a method HOW TO republish an author. I didn’t write this article. I’m going to republish it from CNBC source.

In France, like in some European countries, there’s a some sort of tendency, let’s call it this way, to do the sourcing for the new marketing, business, design ideas, and sell them to the emerging designers, fashion houses, brands etc. I’ve seen it’s been done by Fashion Federations, by Offices of Style (bureaus de style), according to who picking an idea or design from a company abroad is a “very good thing, as it doesn’t exist in France yet”. I’ve been in the jury of some concurs in France where designer picked designs from Denmark brand, and received the price (+ 20 000 euros) for original concept. My remark about that these designs DO NOT belong to this designer had a surprising reaction – another jury member answered to me that it’s ok to do so, as these designs are not in sale, or do not exist in France… ???… !!!

I’ve seen many French “Media” (I put it in quotes, and do air quotes at the same time, as they DO NOT represent Press or Journalism), who do research in different American, English, Germain media sources, picking up articles of known journalists, translate them on French, and present them as their own. Easy!…. To appropriate an authorship! They also got praised for these “achievements” by French Fashion Federations and government organizations linked to them, for brilliant and original discovery, journalism, research etc.

So let’s say this publication is HOW TO publish respectfully an article from another media, the one you know has brilliant ideas and discoveries. Partnership between media exist! Enough just to request and mention the credentials with the link to original article – that will do just fine.

Fake Famous documentary of Nick Bilton by RUNWAY MAGAZINE
Fake Famous documentary of Nick Bilton by RUNWAY MAGAZINE

This article of Tom Huddleston Jr. has been published in CNBC , is about a documentary premiered February 2, 2021 on HBO by Nick Bilton. Horrifying success story “How Instagram influencers can fake their way to online fame” shows in short the social experiment conducted by Nick Bilton and filmed. Talking about a human desire to be “FAMOUS”… Generation before dreamed about being a movie star, new generation dream about becoming an influencer. Several big brands faced already horrid backfire from engaging and depending on influencers – during the pandemic biggest houses lost almost 80% of their turnover, and 90% of the profit. I invite you to check the reports of big brands published publicly and compare them with 2019 year for example.

Let’s see why, shall we?

How Instagram influencers can fake their way to online fame

Author Tom Huddleston Jr. CNBC, published February 2, 2021

The lure of making large sums of money by posting pictures online has turned the job of being a full-time social media influencer into one of the most aspirational career choices for young people around the world.

Influencers on Instagram who have over a million followers can make more than $250,000 per post from brands, while someone like Kylie Jenner can make around $1 million for a single sponsored Instagram post.

Now HBO’s new documentary “Fake Famous,” which premieres on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET., aims to show just how easy it can be to game the social media economy in order to become a famous online “influencer.”

Here’s a look at some of the tactics writer-director Nick Bilton uses to, as he put it, “take some random people with a tiny following online and turn them into famous influencers.”

(Spoiler alert: The experiment worked.)

Journalist Nick Bilton takes a photo of Chris Bailey on a fake private plane set for the HBO documentary “Fake Famous.”Source: HBO
Journalist Nick Bilton takes a photo of Chris Bailey on a fake private plane set for the HBO documentary “Fake Famous.”Source: HBO
Buying followers

“You don’t have to go to the dark web, or anything, you just go to the straight up internet and you can buy pretty much anything you want,” Bilton says in “Fake Famous” as he takes out a credit card to buy thousands of fake followers, or “bots,” for the documentary’s three subjects. Going through the website Famoid.com (which is one of several such sites that sell fake social media followers by the droves), Bilton says he paid about $119.60 to buy about 7,500 followers and 2,500 likes for one of the doc’s guinea pigs, actress actress Dominique Druckman.

The bot followers are “an algorithm that pretends to be a real person on the internet,” says Bilton. “These bots are created by hackers and programmers who write code that scour the internet to steal countless random identities by pilfering peoples photos, names and bios.”

Bilton estimates that there are “hundreds of millions” of bots online and they can be used for any number of purposes, from foreign countries spreading misinformation around U.S. elections to making people, including aspiring influencers as well as already famous celebrities, “appear more popular than they really are.”

Journalist Nick Bilton takes a photo of Dominique Druckman in the room faking private plain with photo on the screen and toilet seat for the HBO documentary “Fake Famous.” Source: HBO
Journalist Nick Bilton takes a photo of Dominique Druckman in the room faking private plain with photo on the screen and toilet seat for the HBO documentary “Fake Famous.” Source: HBO

The followers purchased by Bilton trickle in over a few days, so as not to be flagged by social media companies that periodically purge fake accounts from their platforms. Bilton continued to purchase bots and likes to grow engagment for Druckman — and for two other wannabe influencers: student Wiley Heiner and designer Chris Bailey — until she reached 250,000 followers.

″[S]he’s still getting followers,” Bilton told Variety. “Some of them are bots and some of them are real, but the prophecy fulfilled itself.”

Faking a fabulous lifestyle

To organically grow the fake influencers’ followings and attract offers from brands for sponsored content, Bilton had photographers shoot the subjects in what appear to be luxurious locales, but are actually completely faked.

One photo shoot (embedded below) took place in Bilton’s Los Angeles backyard but when posted were geotagged to the Beverly Hills Four Seasons and the Viceroy resort in Santa Monica.

Journalist Nick Bilton takes a photo of Dominique Druckman on a fake private pool set for the HBO documentary “Fake Famous.” Source: Dominique Druckman
Journalist Nick Bilton takes a photo of Dominique Druckman on a fake private pool set for the HBO documentary “Fake Famous.” Source: Dominique Druckman

The photo shoots also included renting an entire mansion for the afternoon for around $600, and even a fake private jet studio for $49.99 an hour.

Countless other influencers with massive followings also employ misleading tricks to create follow-worthy social content, according to Bilton.

“They fake all-expenses paid, free camping trips, so that later they can get a free, all-expense paid camping trip,” Bilton said in the film. “They fake hiking in the Redwoods so they can try and get free hiking gear and sponsorships. They fake free upgrades to first class or trips on private planes.”
In fact, online, there are thousands of tutorials to pretend you are on an elaborate vacation, when you’re really just in your bedroom,” Bilton said. There are also apps and websites dedicated to photoshopping fake vacation photos for social media.

In 2020, influencer Natalia Taylor, who has 2.2 million YouTube followers, posted a series of photos on Instagram that appeared to show her enjoying a luxurious vacation at a resort in Bali, Indonesia. But, as she later explained, the photos were actually taken at her local Ikea as part of a ruse she staged in order to show people that “life on the internet isn’t always what it seems; especially in this day and age where it’s so easy to pretend to be anyone you want to be.”

Natalia Taylor faked vacations in Bali, taking photos in IKEA, as an experience for Fake Famous documentary of Nick Bilton by RUNWAY MAGAZINE
Natalia Taylor faked vacations in Bali, taking photos in IKEA, as an experience for Fake Famous documentary of Nick Bilton by RUNWAY MAGAZINE

In the end, Bilton’s three subjects went from having no more than 2,500 Instagram followers to tens of thousands (and one now has nearly 340,000 Instagram followers). Meanwhile, they also started receiving perks from brands looking to be featured in their Instagram posts, from free sunglasses or jewelry to free training sessions at a private gym in Beverly Hills.

Faked private gym as an experience for Fake Famous documentary of Nick Bilton by RUNWAY MAGAZINE
Faked private gym as an experience for Fake Famous documentary of Nick Bilton by RUNWAY MAGAZINE

Conclusion by Eleonora de Gray

Something to spice it up… The moral of this story is – Influencers are the PRODUCT of brands to support the sales. Influencers exist because they were demanded by the fashion brands to replace the experts and media. We are still here, on the fight for the public opinion and attention.

But did you notice that influencers today getting their followers by insulting designers, distributing gossips about brands, faking conversations with known designers and personalities, describing situations that never happened? Did you also notice that in 2020-2021 influencers are no longer invited in very private presentations? There’s a REASON for that.

Let’s take a little history turn. Since XIX century there were always books, then magazines dedicated to the fashion who influenced public opinion. In 1950s-1970s Editors of fashion magazines were invited by the designers and asked for an expertise to create next collection. The most influential ever specialized media and experts became by 1990s. They were so powerful that public trusted them with the opinion on the new trends, colors, styles, and selection of the looks. And the designers and houses praised media to give high opinion about their creative work.

An expertise given by fashion critics and media by the year 2010 became heavily imposed on fashion brands: this finishing is not good, or this look is definitely a copy of the looks from another brand, or “it is so last season”. Not good for sales. Who really needs it if brands just want people to buy? Who cares if it is not a tweed, or the look picked from another designer? So from 2010 until 2020 fashion brands choose to show collections to the influencers, who have no expertise, or knowledge or understanding about anything, they were just so exited to be at the show, expressing their excitement to the million followers in the most vulgar way.

But no one thought about another side of this magic “coin”. Influencers might have sexy look, but not too much for “sexy” brain. Not to be corny or anything, but brands forgot that “Great minds discuss ideas, small minds discuss events”. Mostly influencers are expressing their excitement to be invited to the show, nothing more. They show interest to themselves and not to the collection or designer. So with digital shows influencers completely lost their interest. What they can actually communicate about? They are not THERE.

And there’s also “A small mind and a wide mouth usually go together”. The brilliant marketing ideas cost nothing if the public opinion generated by appallingly stupid and quiet vicious Instagram / Twitter influencers. Even better, the several instagram influencers I know actually earned their millions of followers by insulting great and very talented designers, who took 20-30 years to build their brand.

The result? These houses had to remove products from the market, massive losses in the number of sales, lost markets and countries… all of it is a result of very negative public opinion, based on gossips, and somewhere picked insults, diffused by influencers, and some media , who decided to follow the influencers. And this is uncontrollable. Lawsuits in this situation won’t help, it will only worsen.

So to summarize, in 2020 houses realized that they have absolutely no control over public opinion based on gossip, or an anger about a brand, or its product created by the Instagram influencers. And all of it because an influencer didn’t get an extra present, a fancy bag, or super shoes? So the expertise of professionals were not that damaging after all, and on top you can always reason with an expert or media.

For the last couple of years fashion brands already tried to “detach” themselves from everything and give communication by themselves, grow their own audience, followers and devoted buyers. But it doesn’t work very well. People who didn’t know anything about a fashion brand, still don’t know anything about this brand. So no growing number of buyers can be expected anytime soon. And on top, public is still looking for the stories from media or influencers, and base the opinion on gossip and anger so well driven by “wide mouths” on social media networks.

In 2020 digital presentations didn’t drive influencers to the fashion brands. They simply lost interest, as there is no more events to be present and show off. And fashion houses started to get back to media. In 2021 that was unexpected turn of events. We ones again became in the “Most Wanted” list of the fashion houses. But who said that expertise won’t hurt? Return to media only bring the same old problems: an expertise is actually the analyses, disclosing creative find, finishing, trend, which forces houses to play fare. So marketing tricks and “picks” from other brands won’t work.

Let’s get professional! And Happy Ending, everybody!