If Allen Ginsberg were writing "Howl" in 2019, I think it would start like this: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Instagram, starving trendy filtered, dragging themselves though the social media streets at dawn looking for a brand to sponsor them..."
In this age where it is acceptable for a whole life to be commodified, where influencers are selling every aspect of their being for a living, it should not come as a shock that a viral "surprise" wedding proposal probably isn't a surprise at all but rather a carefully planned branded experience.
Marissa Casey Fuchs, a fashion influencer known on Instagram as @fashionambitionist, recently posted a video to her account in which her boyfriend, Gabriel Grossman, kicks off an epic scavenger hunt for Marissa. "I have the most important question of my life to ask you," he says. "The problem is, we're not really into traditional weddings." A surprise proposal. Or is it?
In the few days since the video has been posted, Marissa has been on a crazy adventure. She went from New York City to Montauk to Miami to Paris, following Gabe's mysterious instructions. She's been gifted several diamond necklaces. It's all been documented on Instagram, and tens of thousands of people have been following along.
It seems like the perfectly executed plan. And that's because it is. Taylor Lorenz, a writer for The Atlantic, got her hands on a pitch deck for this very proposal. "Before the proposal scavenger hunt ever kicked off," Lorenz writes, "marketers at various brands and agencies had received a PDF outlining the future engagement in the context of a potential sponsorship.
"'The multiday stunt would be a 'one-of-a-kind proposal experience for a one-of-a-kind female ambitionist,'" the deck reads.
I mean, this thing is meticulous. Well-crafted. A professional pitch deck for this dude's proposal to his girlfriend. I've known people who have spent a few weeks or even months planning their proposals for their girlfriends. Sometimes it involves a trip or a special date, or even a string of surprises. But as far as I know, none of those proposals were pitched to the jewelry store or a hotel like, "Hey, let's make this incredibly momentous, special moment between two people mutually beneficial for the both of us! Eh? Eh?"
The pitch deck contained everything from private photos of the couple to a biography of Marissa to a "summary of her metrics." It also included a detailed itinerary of the proposal, starting with "Video Announcement *IG Journey Long-Form Video Kick-Off Post*" and proceeding from there. According to Lorenz, "so far, there have been only minor discrepancies between the pitch deck and Fuch's posts." She ate at a different restaurant one night and did an "unpacking post as opposed to a packing one." Other than that, this "surprise proposal" seems to be right on schedule.
This adherence to the plan, and frankly the existence of the deck in the first place, has led many to speculate that the proposal isn't as much of a surprise as the couple is trying to make it seem. As Lorenz points out, if the deck is simply Gabriel's plan, and it is in fact a surprise for Marissa, "it's a weird one." Not only is it professionally designed, but it also "directly solicits brand partnerships and was sent to marketers under the guise of a possible sponsorship."
It makes sense that Marissa herself would have had something to do with it, since she is literally the director of brand partnerships for Goop. Gabriel, on the other hand, works in finance and keeps his own social media presence much more private.
Bryan Pedersen, an ad exec who saw the deck, told Lorenz, "Either her fiancé has been intimately involved in every single aspect of her business and influencer marketing career and knows every detail of her influencer partnerships, or she has had some input into that pitch deck."
Gabriel and Marissa's friends have been adamant that she doesn't know anything about the plan. And maybe she doesn't know the specifics. But either way, she has agreed to commodify this experience by posting about it on Instagram and tagging brands. (Gabriel told Lorenz only a few brands even responded to the deck they sent out.) Honestly, I'm not surprised at all that an influencer would choose to monetize her own engagement.
And neither is Kelsey Hodgkin, the head of strategy at ad agency Deutsch Los Angeles. She points out that celebrities and influencers already brand their weddings, pregnancies, and even breakups. Engagements were just next on the list. "I think it's completely insane, but very of the moment we're living in now," she told Lorenz.
Yeah, it's totally bonkers that this is the world we're living in. But it's also 100 percent of the world we're living in. Branding your engagement is no more insane to me than trying to get clicks on a video of your wife falling off a cliff or using your children to brand yourself as a "mommy blogger." It's all the same, people!
Perhaps the craziest part of this story, as Lorenz points out, is that even if Marissa is in on it, even if she planned her own "surprise proposal" herself, "her fans likely won't care." Pedersen says, "The audience doesn't just see an influencer as an [entertainment] channel or celebrity; they see them as a friend. And if it's your friend, you're going to forgive anything."
That's the crazy thing to me about all this. In this day and age, lies don't matter. Truth is what we choose to believe. And what we choose believe is often so carefully curated and orchestrated that we don't even know it.
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