screengrab from YouTube, of Marina Joyce holding a StyleWe placard in DATE OUTFIT IDEAS

The biggest freak-out in Internet history happened just a few months ago when fans of the beauty and fashion vlogger Marina Joyce became convinced she was kidnapped by ISIS and forced via gunpoint to make awkward YouTube videos. Joyce’s plight became a meme, after becoming a worldwide trending topic that saw international coverage and the British police weighing in. The video at the center of the absurd conspiracy theory was a sponsored video from StyleWe called DATE OUTFIT IDEAS, which has amassed more than 36.9 million views now. At the time, I mused StyleWe was probably making bank off the hysteria and bad cybersleuthing… but, I was wrong.

According to Lemon Lin, a representative from Hong Kong-based parent company ChicV International Holding Limited (?), StyleWe saw no “traffic increase nor sales increase during the event.”

What? You mean out of all the millions of people who viewed the video, hardly any of them clicked through on Marina Joyce’s affiliated links?

Well, according to Lin, hardly to none. So much for romanticizing the damsel in distress!? Still, that the massive attention didn’t move additional product seems absurd.

Perhaps the explanation lies in the mood of the Marina Joyce viewer at the time who was tuning in not for style or outfit tips, but to see if she really was whispering “help me” or blinking SOS to the camera like the e-detectives were convinced she was. When you’re generally worried about a celebrity, maybe the last thing on your mind is dressing like them?

Lemon Lin wasn’t forthcoming when pressed for details about Joyce’s deal with StyleWe or traffic and sales numbers compared to other paid influencers but she did write in an email that StyleWe is “constantly” evaluating the “KOL that reviews our products.” (KOL stands for “Key Opinion Leader,” marketing speak for influencer.)

“We have not made any decisions to work with her again or not,” wrote Lin, adding the “KOL program is still a very small part of our overall marketing effort.”

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Whether or not paying influencers is worth it remains a contentious issue despite 60 Minutes glowing review of the advertising concept on October 23rd. In May of this year, Digiday published a story characterized as a confession from a marketing executive who lamented the amount of money that has been wasted on influencers and suggested influencers as a concept would soon “start disappearing.”

If there was ever an influencer bubble, I think Marina Joyce popped it this summer.

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