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Is Gucci Sharing Other TikTokers’ Content An Ad Campaign For Themselves?

This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.

This past week, Gucci has been sharing videos of people doing “The Gucci Model Challenge” to its own brand page. It’s shared about nine separate TikToks so far, which have gained hundreds of thousands of views. One of them was heavily promoted by TikTok and has been viewed over 5.8 million times.

The “challenge” was started by a 21-year-old named Morgan Presley, who parodied the ridiculous and signature Gucci style in a TikTok in mid-August. After Gucci discovered her video, it reached out to Morgan to ask her for permission to use her content. Morgan told me it was “surreal” to hear directly from the legendary fashion brand, and she gladly gave them permission.

Her original video eventually turned into a meme or “challenge” where other people used her audio to recreate a signature Gucci look. Gucci has since been uploading people’s challenges to its own TikTok page, tagging the OP and crediting Morgan as the voiceover. It’s a kind of wink and acknowledgment that it’s in on the joke.

“Gucci’s new video project for @tiktok will feature talents that took part in the #GucciModelChallenge,” it captioned one of “its” videos in the series.

Morgan, like me, thought the idea was unexpected and brilliant. “I know big brands [like Gucci] don’t work with influencers. They’ve worked with celebrities, so it was so surreal. I’ve never seen that. The fact they were playing along in the joke was really cool, instead of suing me for making fun of them,” she said. Although Morgan told me that she was a bit disappointed to know the brand only used her voice instead of her whole video.

Morgan also noted that since Gucci started posting parody videos that she inspired, its account grew immensely. Previously, the brand had posted experimental and high-concept videos that garnered a few thousand likes. The posts of Morgan’s challenge videos get tens of thousands of likes. “They grew a lot; their account grew a ton,” Morgan said. “And their engagement is so high they [don’t have to do] normal advertisement.”

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But because TikTok doesn’t allow a direct repost, and Gucci has to acquire rights to other people’s videos to post directly, it makes me wonder: What kind of content is this? Is it an ad campaign? Is it some kind of fun advertorial thing to engage with users? Who’s benefiting from this cross-promotion?

I reached out to Gucci earlier this week to directly ask these questions. A spokesperson provided a lot of information on background, but they did not provide any comments I could cite directly. According to top comments on their reuploads, the original posters seem grateful to be promoted by the brand. And I imagine they’re getting new followers from being tagged, which is great.

But other comments from TikTok users are asking the luxury designer to do more for Morgan, who essentially created the original content that it’s now being recognized for. “But did you hire the girl that made the sound?” one user asked; “C’mon Gucci I hope you bought her sound and didn’t just take it. Also, hire her!” another wrote.

To me, the Gucci campaign is a smart move. It makes the aspirational brand so much more accessible, and it’s generally fun when a brand that takes itself so seriously all the time is able to laugh at itself. But the incessant posting of other people’s videos makes me wonder how much they’ll milk a joke for their own benefit, and if we should ask ourselves where we should draw the line. If you have any thoughts about this, email me!

Until next time,

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Tanya

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