Meet Louise Delage. She’s a 25-year-old Parisian that shares fun moments of her daily life on Instagram, ranging from spending time with friends, enjoying the outdoors, eating at restaurants and cuddling with her cat Jean-Claude.
Despite entering the social media scene in August of 2016, Louise Delage gained more than 60,000 followers in a matter of weeks, armed with nothing more than relevant tags, stunning photos and a cheery smile.
Her success isn’t entirely surprising, considering Instagram boasts more than 2 billion monthly users; many of these users are young women just like Louise Delage and numerous brand accounts market to this audience.
From sitting at the beach with glasses of rose, eating lunch and drinking red and white wines, sipping on champagne in bubble baths or attending social events holding mimosas, every post blends with one another.
In her final update, Delage shared a video with a shocking reveal: she’s a fictional character that’s part of an ad campaign called “Like My Addiction.”
Discerning fiction from reality
The Paris agency BETC created the campaign for Addict Aide, an organization raising awareness of alcoholism among young adults and providing resources for those who are affected by excessive alcohol consumption.
According to Addict Aide one out of every five deaths that occur among young adults annually are caused by addiction.
Many of Louise Delage’s followers failed to notice that in each of her 150 pictures, almost every single one of them showed Delage with a drink in hand.
Stephane Xiberras, BETC president and creative director, thought it would be interesting to “create a person people would meet every day but whom we’d never suspect of being an addict.”
“The more people stage their ideal life on social media, the more that serves to hide a not-so-ideal reality,” said Xiberras in an interview with Adweek.
Three images were posted at peak traffic times in the morning, afternoon and evening, with each post accompanied by nearly 30 relevant hashtags for food, outdoors, vacation and travel. BETC went as far as to mimic fashion bloggers to recreate attitude, filters and poses for the pictures.
The campaign was also boosted by creating efficient bots to follow specific accounts on Delage’s behalf for follow backs; influencers with 20,000 to 100,000 followers were contacted to promote Delage and her account.
While it was based entirely on organic and earned reach, Louise Delage’s acquisition strategy was deeply rooted in “native Instagram content and user habits, building an acquisition strategy around four pillars: content, hashtags, bots and a KOL [key opinion leader] strategy,” according to Xiberras.
Exceeding expectations with earned media
In terms of metrics the campaign was a success: Addict Aide received more than five times its usual traffic after the big reveal, more than 140 articles were written on the story and Louise Delage became a trending topic on Twitter in France.
“Like My Addiction” won 17 Lions – coveted and well-respected awards in the creative communications, advertising and related fields – at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which is the largest gathering of worldwide advertising professionals, marketers, digital innovators and designers in the world.
The Louise Delage campaign went viral and garnered more than one billion impressions and 9.8 million hits in earned media without spending any money on advertising.
Timing was a critical factor as the BETC ended the campaign within a specified time frame instead of dragging their audience along until someone called them out. The reveal video also aimed to inform viewers and raise awareness of addiction instead of giving a sense of misdirection or feeling duped.
Don’t miss the bigger picture
Even though “Like My Addiction” is considered to be a resounding success, Xiberras felt as though it could have been conducted better, stating that it’s difficult on Instagram to differentiate between fiction and reality.
“We hoped for more followers to take notice of Louise’s behavior,” he said. “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.”