Who are you not going to see this Christmas? For the last couple of years, a lot of us had the noble excuse of public health to shield us from the awkwardness of turning down invites for drinks and dinners.
This year, it seems that, whether I like it or not, my festive outings will be just as few and far between as they were in the dark days of those “meaningful” Christmases. But my excuse this year is a little less noble. Perhaps it’s an unsavoury thing to say in a season that takes a hard line against Scroogery, but I simply can’t afford much more than one big night out this year.
The cost-of-living crisis is biting hard, no more than it is for everyone else I’m sure. With every twinkle of the tree, it’s like I can physically feel my government electricity credit drip to complete depletion. It has emerged that even the North Pole is not insulated from inflation. And who among us didn’t feel our eyes water when we realised that this year, of all years, December yawns out over an incredibly lengthy FIVE weekends. A lot of people’s paycheques simply will not.
So what used to be ‘quality time’ seems to have become premium time in 2022. As I conduct the most awkward of audits, trying to decide which of my friends I can afford to see this year, I have become very conscious of the parallel world that I’m seeing on my phone.
I find it difficult, as I tap from one opulent event to another, to not start to feel that these saleswomen I loved, trusted and followed are starting to look a little bit like blow-dried aristocrats
I’m a big fan of influencers, because they promote what I see as a pretty mutually beneficial kind of marketing. For years, I have consciously put more faith in the things that are sold to me by social-media stars that I trust than I have in traditional marketing. This is because I can customise the Instagram advertising I see to me. On my feed, I’m marketed to by someone who is the same size as me, or has the same kind of skin as me, or likes the same kinds of clothes as me. In some cases, I’ve even curated my feed to include influencers who share the same social and political values as me. The world of Irish influencing is often derided, but I think that’s a pretty ignorant way to talk about such a booming industry. Everything from cars to fertility treatments have — rightly or wrongly — been sold via Irish Instagram influencers. But I am starting to believe that one of the boomiest industries in Ireland could be veering toward bust, unless it changes its tone.
The art of any kind of advertising is straddling a sense of aspirational luxury but realistic achievability at the same time. Maybe before, a lot of us could potentially see ourselves within the glam Instagram stories of these women, could maybe even imagine ourselves unspooling our own tamed tresses from one of those €500 hairdryers. But now, it seems that barely a week passes without us plebs sitting po-faced and watching as the people who are trying to sell us things do so while they are wined, dined and doted on by brands, broadcasting from any number of the interchangeable Dublin private-dining venues that seem to have been exclusively decorated for luxe girlies to take pictures of themselves in. Glamour is a spectacle, and one that I’ve always found enjoyable to look at. The problem, I think, is that the economic climate for those of us who consume Instagram influencing has changed dramatically, but the tone and tenor of the marketing itself has failed to. The luxury that we see on our feeds is now way beyond the means of most ordinary people, which makes the world of Irish influencing feel very stale indeed. I find it difficult, as I tap from one opulent event to another, to not start to feel that these saleswomen I loved, trusted and followed are starting to look a little bit like blow-dried aristocrats.
Some may say that this is just sour grapes from someone working in an industry which used to have a monopoly on cosy hobnobbing. It is indeed true that fancy press events used to be reserved for, well, the press; but at least the traditional media made more of an effort to not rub the shmoozing quite so roughly in the reader’s face.
I don’t have the kind of job that lets me benefit from a lot of fancy press trips and events, but I know that for colleagues that do, the extravagance and excess of it is often almost a source of shame. So, traditionally, a reader would hear about the perceived merits of this lipstick or that cream, but you wouldn’t also have to endure hearing about what a fabulous time the journalist had trying it on over free fizz in The Ivy.
Social-media marketing would have always been ahead of the times, but now it seems it’s stalling and failing to move with it. Even now, in the midst of an annual Christmas consumerist jamboree, you’ll note that traditional advertising from big brands has veered more toward the budget than the luxe this year. So Instagram brands and influencers need to think again about the tone they take with a cash-strapped audience. Glamour and luxe is fine for those who get it for free, but the rest of us are not buying it.