Pretty Much All The Dior Saddle Bag Influencers Have Ties to the Brand
Dior has employed some pretty shady tactics to promote the relaunch of the iconic Saddle Bag...
We really all first started noticing the bag pretty much everywhere on social media around four days ago when it seemed like every major blogger and Instagram influencer was flooding Instagram with simultaneous #diorsaddlebag posts. However, it actually started months ago in February, when the bag first reappeared on SS18 runways, generating a lot of excitement from the fashion world. After all, the bag represented a simpler time when freelance writer Carrie Bradshaw bandied hers about on the streets of NYC and Paris Hilton wore a bubblegum pink one that matched both her lipstick and the top of her thong peeking out over of her low-rise jeans - and in these tough times, we really do seem to be starving for the innocence of the early aughts.
Dior's strategy, it seems, was a slow and steady trickle of product placement for a few months, and then a unmistakeable wave all at once like some ancient war tactic dreamed up by a PR team with unlimited funds and hot friends. The culmination of the plan was a coordinated effort between a few dozen top influencers all posting beautiful, professionally shot and edited photos of themselves with their new bag. A handful used the hashtag #SuppliedByDior - as if to subtly hint, whisper really, that the bags were gifted - only one used the word #ad (scroll down to see who the sole law-abiding influencer was), and none used the new Instagram "Paid Promotion" feature, which the social media platform created specifically to make it easier for brands and influencers to disclose this information.
They may have been better off with the slow and steady approach, which was similar enough to most bag trend events that it almost flew under the radar. Remember, if you will, back in 2015 when Lord & Taylor got in big trouble - and pissed off pretty much the whole internet - for paying 50 Instagrammers up to $4,000 each to post the same paisley dress, which then sold out. People hated that - it felt staged, planted, inauthentic, and it made people feel as though they didn't have full control over what they actually wanted - rather, we were being told what we wanted, which we almost always are anyway, but at least advertisers have had the decency to be more subtle about it in the past. So how, in 2018, over three years later, does Dior decide to pick up the same exact strategy, up to and including not disclosing that it was a paid or gifted ad, especially with this warning from the FTC fired up and ready to go out faster than a gifted handbag.
In any case, the people chosen to promote the Saddle Bag 2.0 all have one thing in common. (No, not just that they're mostly white, all thin, and all rich/famous, but that still stands.) They all have some connection with the brand, either as models, brand ambassadors, recipients of advertising dollars, and many of them have tagged the same man, Dior's "E-Reputation Director."
Here's what the #DiorSaddleBag influencers all have in common, as well as some tidbits about what Dior has given them or paid them for in the past.
1.) They all know Gary Pinagot, Dior's Digital Communications Director.
Many of the people who posted the bag have all tagged Dior's Digital Communications, Social Media and e-Reputation Director Gary Pinagot in their recent posts, or in past posts.
Pelayo Diaz, the influencer behind the blog Kate Loves Me, thanked Pinagot for inviting him to the menswear show last winter.
Several bloggers, including Thassia Naves, Gary Pepper Girl, Aimee Song, and Dani Song tagged Pinagot in one of their many Saddle Bag posts, almost as if to say "here, please check my work and let me know if I've fulfilled my contractual obligation."
Camila Coehlo, pictured below, got her start as a makeup artist with Dior, working the counter at Macy's. She's now an influencer with a few million followers and a pretty awesome life, wardrobe, and travelog. She also tagged Pinagot in her post.
2.) They have worked for the brand before.
Chiara Ferragni has collaborated more times than anyone can count with the French fashion house. Most recently, she and Bella Hadid starred in a campaign for the brand's beauty line. Here she is in an already iconic image with he bag in Rome, and please note that she posted in four times in the same span of photos.
Anika Bozic has modelled in Dior before for Elle Middle East.
3.) They've received gifts, trips, and more from Dior recently.
It appears, unless some of the influencers are lying, that some of them purchased the bags. It is my belief that Dior asked them to purchase the bags, and then compensated them for posting images around the same time. Even if the Instagrammers did not receive monetary compensation for promoting the relaunch of the bags, it still begs the question - is it an ad?
I would argue that yes, it is still a paid promotion, even if the payment isn't monetary. These posts, whether money was exchanged or not, still strategically promote the bag in a favorable light, and, no doubt, even if they don't receive money, each influencer is still "getting" something in return from the show of loyalty to the brand - gratitude from Dior, invitations to future collaborations with the brand, trips to Paris complete with hotel suites and chauffeured cars (yes, that's a thing - keep reading). It's all very Trump/Putin feeling, tbh, but let's keep politics out of this for a minute...
Sarah Deniz, a Pianist and trés -stylish Instagrammer posted pretty heavily about her new Dior saddle bag - she says she paid for hers and has also bought a second one. In an Instagram story posted on the same day, she mentions being upset at the controversy about the bag, and calls it nonsense. Fair...I'd probably be upset if I spent a few thousand $ on a bag and someone accused me of getting it for free. BUT, elsewhere on her Insta, Deniz has a whole section of saved stories titled "Dior." In them, she films herself arriving in a suite in Paris (paid for by Dior) opening a personalized note and gifted Dior choker from the brand, being picked up several times in a chauffeured car, also paid for by the brand, being driven to lunch for, you guessed it, Dior, and so on. She also randomly was thrown a surprise party at the Dior store in London, where she is shown eating pastries and opening gifts, although it is not clear if they are from guests or the brand, or a combination of both. The first stories are from February 2018, and the most recent are another trip in May to visit the showroom/store, so they are not from the recent Saddle Bag Influencer Takeover in July, but still - you can see how her involvement with the brand, and the steady stream of free travel, accommodations, invites, and so forth muddies the waters ever so slightly. (You can watch the saved stories here, and the Surprise Birthday stories are here.)
4.) They have received advertising dollars from Dior before.
Eva Chen, Instagram's Head of Fashion, claims that she did not keep the bag, she merely borrowed it for a shoot, but this fashion industry veteran - and Instagram employee - should definitely have known better. She knowingly participated in a grassroots ad campaign in which others, if not herself, violated FTC guidelines that Instagram claims to enforce. It seems like she is carrying over some bad behavior from her magazine editor days, in which items made it into editorials simply because brands paid big bucks for advertising in the same issue. It's just very disingenuous feeling.
Vogue Taiwan posted about Dior no less than eight times in the past six days...They've also posted images featuring other lux brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Moncler, Versace and Gucci as well, but each of those received one post each. See the Dior pics here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And yes, Dior is an advertiser.
One fashion model and influencer did it right:
Only one influencer that I have come across actually used the hashtag #ad in her caption, and that is Veronica Ferraro.
Ferraro has posted tons of photos in the past few weeks with Dior bags, backstage, and in full makeup and clothing from the brand, and nearly each time has captioned the image with #ad, and even credited the photographer.
In my opinion, the fact that Ferrano acknowledged this as an #ad is actually pretty damning for the rest of the influencers, and for Dior - why would the others be genuine, authentic "fan" posts when they were posted in the same manner, at the same time, and more or less of the same thing as Ferrano's, which is an ad? If Ferrano's was sponsored content, then it's pretty likely that everyone else's is, too - they're just not admitting it, nor is Dior seemingly encouraging them to comply with FTC guidelines, which really aren't "optional."
So what do you think? Does Dior have some 'splaining to do? Should fashion brands be allowed to play dirty like this, or do you not consider this shady at all - is it just part of the territory with social media? Comment below with your thoughts!