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Popular Instagram account revealed as campaign to raise awareness of alcoholism in young people

People of a certain age might remember LonelyGirl15 (explainer here on the Guardian – Christ, this was 10 years ago).

Well, a similar social persona being played straight has just been revealed as fictitious, having gained 18,000 followers and ‘more than 50,000 likes’ in a couple of months, posting 150 times.

25 year old Louise Delage cultivated a feed of beach shots, boat parties, fancy dinners and, most commonly, snaps of her with a drink in hand.

The account was revealed to be campaign from agency BETC for Addict Aide, a French organisation that supports people struggling with alcohol dependency.

The campaign highlights how easy it is to not only ignore the signs of alcoholism, but perhaps also how easy it is to subconsciously enable it, ‘liking’ content constantly depicting damaging behaviours.

According to Addict Aide, out of every five deaths of young people annually, one is from addiction.

“We hoped for more followers to take notice of Louise’s behavior,” BETC president and creative director Stéphane Xiberras Paris told AdWeek’s AdFreak. “There were a few people who sensed the trap—a journalist among others, of course—but in the end, the majority just saw a pretty young girl of her time and not at all a kind of lonely girl, who is actually not at all that happy and with a serious alcohol problem.”

The video revealing the account as a ploy is below:

The campaign as a case study:

Unusually, BETC went into quite a lot of detail as to how they went about this campaign, rooting it in ‘four pillars': content, hashtags, bots and a KOL (key opinion leader) strategy.

Marketing-speak aside, students and young marketers might find this useful as an example of a campaign done well, ethics-be-damned.

(They don’t even try to pretend that this was done organically as Lonelygirl15 most likely was, and I’m confident it wouldn’t have worked had they not paid for a bot).

  1. They posted two to three posts per day at high-traffic moments—in the morning, at lunchtime and late at night
  2. BETC studied fashion bloggers, including “their attitude and the filters they most commonly use”
  3. Each post included a mix of 20-30 hashtags related to fashion, food, nature and parties (sites like TagsForLikes help with finding popular hashtags)
  4. They set up a ‘like’ bot to like and follow specific people – such as women interested in fashion bloggers, journalists and celebrities (using a bot like Archie, presumably)
  5. They contacted teenage key opinion leaders (though there was no word as to whether these were paid, nor how many were contacted) with between 20,000 to 100,000 followers, to promote the account

With ‘zero media investment’, the campaign apparently generated more than 140 articles and became a trending topic on Twitter in France. More importantly, Addict Aide saw five times more traffic to its site than normal – here’s to hoping that a proportion of those visitors are people that need support.

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Rich started PRexamples.com in January 2012. It has been named Vuelio's top PR blog. He runs consumer PR agency Radioactive PR, which has two offices in the UK. He also wrote 'Myths of PR', which went on to become Amazon's best-selling PR book within days of release. In March 2013, Rich co-founded blogger outreach service bloggabase.com. He tweets about PR stunts, campaigns and other media bits and pieces @RichLeighPR

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