Some world destinations are ideal for social media with stunning backdrops, lively venues and a smorgasbord of content. It’s fair to say that Ibiza ticks all these boxes so this must have been one of the reasons why the first ‘International Influencer Awards’ was held on the island at the beginning of June.
The concept was straightforward. Invite 40 of the most ‘influential’ social media movers and shakers from all over the world to a weekend of all expenses fun on the White Isle so they could showcase Ibiza and Formentera to their combined total of 160 million followers. The Island Council seemed to think it was a good idea and bought into it to the tune of a 100,000 EUR subsidy of taxpayers money as long as the organisers could independently justify fours times that being spent on local brands.
What followed was a PR disaster that has caused many red faces and started a debate amongst local press and intellects as to the direction that the island is heading in and whether social media accurately reflects what Ibiza is all about (when did social media accurately reflect anything?).
What was supposed to be a positive experience turned sour by the general passive and narcissistic behaviour of the participants culminating in a now infamous post by Spanish influencer Maria Pombo drunkenly looking for a McDonalds at 4am in the morning after previously eating at a top end restaurant, all paid for of course.
The already cynical Ibiza press jumped in denouncing the perception of this group of free loading airheads being ferried around in black mercedes minivans, too busy looking for affirmation on their phones to engage with the island and the brands they were supposed to be supporting on their all expenses paid jolly up.
After 2 years of limited nightlife those commentators who had urged the Island to furrow a more locally focussed path were horrified that the island was well and truly back to pre-pandemic levels of shallowness. Juan Carlos Rodriguez Tur writing an opinion piece for the Periodico de Ibiza called the Awards “embarrassing, shameful, outrageous and ridiculous”. His distaste didn’t end there. “They have spent a weekend partying, going on a yacht, visiting beach clubs and discos at the expense of the Ibizan taxpayer without the slightest positive impact for the island. In fact, they have done just the opposite: influence the image of Ibiza as an exclusive destination in which only superficiality and excesses have a place”. Bullseye!
Xescu Prats waded in with his piece in the Diario de Ibiza, writing “choosing a troop of adolescent-minded youtubers to share with their millions of followers rice dishes with steak and drunken searches for McDonalds does not add (to the island), it subtracts”. Señor Prats called for a deeper reflection. “It’s amazing that luxury hotels, beach clubs, nightclubs and restaurants with bizarre cuisine are being given so much visibility while heritage, culture, local family hotels and traditional gastronomy are progressively losing prominence. What is truly important to the island is being turned into an accessory only benefitting the interests of certain business groups to the detriment of the general interest”. Ouch!
To pour more petrol on the fire a charity account set up for donations on the back of the awards yielded an embarrassing amount of money so the negative perception solidified into reality. To their credit the Awards organisers realised this was a spectacular own goal and moved quickly to renounce all subsidies from the Ibiza Island Council while issuing a grovelling apology but the damage had already been done.
It should have been a good fit but with poorly chosen guests, no specific promotion agreement in place with content creators who all have different audiences, priorities and objectives it proved impossible to control and the fallout was spectacularly played out in public. Social media works both ways.
It’s been a chastising experience and in reality does a brand as strong as Ibiza really need a group of posturing professionals exhibiting only the luxury side of a diverse story? These influencers, with their predominantly youthful following, are precisely the opposite of the traditional free spirited values associated with the long and rich history of the White Isle.
Social media is here to stay and is an important part of showcasing to the world all the different aspects of Ibiza but in the future I doubt whether the island authorities will want to talk about this disastrous episode never mind get involved. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and you can guarantee there’s a self styled influencer taking plenty of selfies along the way.