There are no shortage of brands that'll partake in modern-day payola to get on the feeds of LA's fashion #influencers—but Payless turned the tables by pranking social media superstars into paying up for its affordable shoes. As LAist reports, the footwear brand popped up at Santa Monica Place as "Palessi," a faux-luxe label shilling trendy shoes for $200 to over $600. (The original Payless price tags? $20 to $35.)
In a move pulled from Nathan For You's playbook (remember Dumb Starbucks?), Palessi's invite-only fake launch party convinced VIP guests that the sneakers and heels on display were — in shoppers' words — "elegant," "sophisticated," and made with "high quality material." While we're not here to disagree, it's clear that the designer dupes certainly weren't from the same factories as Louboutin.
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It was all the work of New York-based branding firm DCX Growth Accelerator, which is the same company behind last year's Trump Hut protest art and this year's anti gun-violence Bulletproof Schools campaign, according to AdWeek.
The ad industry pub notes that the footwear giant tapped DCX to create a multi-million dollar ad campaign for the holidays, and we're assuming part of that spend included paying partygoers to attend, as revealed by one guest in response to an Instagram commenter. This isn't uncommon in the world of influencer marketing, which involves compensating style bloggers and 'grammers in the form of free merch and vacays in exchange for IG shout-outs and other social media mentions. (We're guessing that many of those tags were deleted after people realized they were catfished.)
To trick fashion influencers, DCX created an entire website and Instagram account for Payless' fake upscale label. DCX COO Doug Cameron explained AdWeek that the goal was to "push back against the current billionaire culture and get Payless to reassert its pragmatist approach."
See the full Payless ad below and read more over on LAist here.