This week an influencer faked her death to promote a good cause - what are the ethical and sector-wide implications?


Earlier this week an Instagram post announced the death of Poonam Pandey, an Indian actor, model and influencer. The post was a stunt designed to heighten awareness of cervical cancer. 

The following day Pandley posted a Reel exclaiming “I am alive. I didn’t die because of cervical cancer.”

The stunt provoked a major backlash. Nearly 50,000 Instagram users liked one of the Reel’s comments which said “WORST PUBLICITY STUNT EVER!”

Later the same day the social media agency behind the initiative issued a sorry-not-sorry apology via Instagram

In a post-truthliar's dividend world of deepfakes, misinformation and disinformation such, no doubt, well-intentioned 'stunts' erode audience trust in our sector and, worse still, might have an adverse effect on cervical cancer prevention.

Google Trends: Search term “cervical cancer” for India over the last seven days

If everything is 'fair game' to grab attention - no matter how worthy the cause or compelling the communication such initiatives will erode the impact influencer marketing holds over shaping public behaviour. 

The campaign created a great spark of attention. But, according to Google Trends at least, the surge was short lived. What will be the legacy of this ill-conceived campaign?

This story is an extract from this week's Creator Briefing newsletter. Sign up here to receive weekly updates on the creator economy. 

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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