What’s Next for Louise Delage, Instagram’s Most Fascinating Fraud

The campaign has already won 17 Lions in two days at Cannes

Headshot of Angela Natividad

CANNES, France—Last summer, for an organization called Addict Aide, Paris agency BETC invented a character named Louise Delage.

The fictional woman appeared on Instagram and cleaned up on followers in a handful of weeks. (She still has over 110,000 as of this writing.) Her life was glamorous and beautiful, and people ate it up.

But a little over a month after her Instagram debut, a video appeared on her account that revealed the truth. Louise’s entire Insta universe was actually a campaign about alcohol addiction.

If her success marked and polarized us, it’s for many reasons. To start with, BETC made massive (and clever) use of a mix of bots and influencers to boost Louise’s social credibility. Many bots have since been disabled on Insta … and, well, since Fyre Festival and the Pepsi debacle, our feelings about influencers have changed dramatically.

Beyond that, the campaign as a whole acts as a pretty big rebuke to social media culture. Not only was Louise not a real person; she was expressing her addiction all along … and we were Liking all the signs.

What does that say about us?

This week at Cannes, the “Like My Addiction” campaign has already won 17 Lions—five golds, seven silvers, five bronzes—just through Tuesday’s award shows. We met with the BETC creative team to talk about Louise’s success, and what’s next for her (there’s a series in the works, of course!). In the video above, you’ll find our conversation with executive creative director Stéphane Xiberras. Below, we take a deeper dive with activation strategy head Julien Leveque, creative communication head Niamh O’Conner; and associate director Isabelle Picot.

Because this is an ad festival, we asked about the agency’s award strategy, especially since BETC is known for its production might in television, and less so for impactful digital work. Get all the goods below.

Adweek: Sum up the “Like My Addiction” campaign. What did you set out to achieve?
Isabelle Picot: It’s easy to miss out on the alcoholism of a loved one. The Actions Addictions Fund wanted to highlight this difficulty to promote its platform AddictAide.fr, the first public portal dedicated to addictions.

What were your benchmarks, and how well did you fare?
Julien Leveque: Our KPIs were 8,000 followers and at least 50,000 likes. We hit our targets as the campaign went viral, generating more than 1 billion impressions, or 9.8 million in earned media, without any advertising investment.

Louise Delage managed to attract 110,000 followers. And six months later, without posting anything new, her profile still has the same number. People didn’t unsubscribe.

Do you think your influencer approach strategy was justified, and if so, why?
JL: We used growth hacking techniques through bots and paid influencers to kickstart Louise’s profile. What changed since last year is that Instagram disabled Instagress, the bot that we used for the campaign. This affects the acquisition strategy for new accounts on Instagram. Everybody used to rely on bots.

Also, Instagram removed the chronological feed. Users are now shown content based on an algorithm. All this favors established accounts versus new ones.

IP: We can see how Instagram has matured as a platform at the same time that it ramped up its advertising strategy.

How will this affect future influencer strategies?
Niamh O’Connor: With Louise Delage, we were lucky to make this campaign at the right time. Today it would be much more difficult to achieve the same results. But even if we were to make it in June 2017, we would do it differently.

JL: Instagram has evolved so much since. They copied some Snapchat features. Last summer, Instagram was mostly about square pictures. Today, we would use a mix of images, videos, stories and live videos.

All social media goes through the same cycle. It happened to Instagram. And Snapchat is going through the same phase at the moment as they boost their advertising capabilities. They become more media and less social.

IP: The key is to find the next platform. Maybe Musical.ly, which is still untapped territory for brands.

Notably, Louise Delage made a big splash when it was revealed she was not an influencer at all but a campaign. What kind of feedback did you get from your target?
NO: We received a lot of attention after the reveal. But the attention didn’t quite fade away after that. To this day, we keep getting press inquiries about the campaign.

And among all the coverage that we received, one stands out. NowThis made a video about it (shown below) and received 18 million views and a gazillion comments. George Takei even shared it on his Facebook page.

Louise Delage has already begun picking up awards, notably at The One Show. What are your goals for prizes this year?
NO: It goes without saying that we hope to win as many awards as possible! It would be great to win in categories that we don’t often get awards in. Our Gold in the new Social Influencer Category at The One Show is really important to us.

What’s the big award that you absolutely hope to get? What’s the award you think you’ll most likely get?
JL: It’s really hard to say how the campaign will do in Cannes; winning other awards doesn’t mean a win in Cannes. Winning a Lion, regardless of the color, is a big achievement.

What is the role of your awards manager?
NO: It’s a role that combines a number of things, with a lot of moving pieces that need to be kept moving at the right times.

An awards manager should know the key awards to enter, the best campaigns to send in the right categories, collect assets, help the team build their case study, manage a budget, help pick the right people for juries and so on.

Organization is key; the devil is in the details.

We’ve heard your awards manager chose not to enter the campaign in awards last year, to score more points in a single calendar year, maximizing your chances of a higher Gunn Report score. Can you outline your overall awards and creative recognition strategy?
IP: We think the Gunn Report is an excellent benchmark for creative work. We have a list of awards that we tend to do every year. It’s a mix of creative, effective and digital awards both in France and internationally.

How does the Louise Delage awards strategy differ from your awards approach to any other campaign, say for Evian or Canal+?
NO: The only difference is in the category selection. “Like My Addiction” can be entered into a lot of different categories. We don’t always get that option with other campaigns.

How does such a strategy impact BETC’s business?
IP: Awards can help win new business and boost client visibility. They are important within the agency to help increase overall work quality and attract talent.

What will you be doing for Louise Delage on-site, at the Lions? Do you think there’s anything you can do here to boost your chances?
NO: We won’t be doing anything on-site. Hopefully the campaign is strong enough on its own. It’s out of our hands now!

What’s next for Louise Delage?
JL: With our 110,000 followers, we could make a story and hope to go viral again. But we don’t want Addict Aide to become just Louise Delage.

We are still working with Addict Aide at the moment. It wasn’t just a one-shot campaign. We have a true collaborative relationship with them. We will be preparing a new communication action to raise awareness about the NGO and their messages about addiction.

And we’ve developed a 30-second version of the [reveal] film that will air on TV. It will be broadcast this summer. It is important for Addict Aide to be heard during the months of July/August, as people tend to fall into damaging drinking behaviors at this period.

We heard a TV series is coming out! Please tell us about it.
IP: One surprising thing that happened to us was that a Canadian director and producer wrote a series treatment about the campaign.

The idea is to follow a Louise Delage type six months after she revealed to her friends that she suffered from alcohol addiction. She went into rehab and is now clean. But all her friends are still living this destructive lifestyle and she feels powerless. The series is currently being pitched to TV networks in North America.

@luckthelady angela.natividad@gmail.com Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.