Endless gifts and private villas: Inside Tarte’s ‘tone-deaf’ luxury influencer trip to Dubai
Nobody wanted this on their For You Page
Even a global pandemic wasn’t enough to stamp out lavish all-expenses-paid influencer trips and in 2023, the year of the cost of living crisis, they’re back and bigger than ever. Over the weekend, makeup brand Tarte faced some serious backlash for flying 50 guests, or “Tartlettes” as they like to call them, over to the United Arab Emirates for a boujee hol.
Alix Earle was there, Meredith Duxbury was there, Monet McMichael hopped on a plane too, and they were all allowed to bring along a plus one to enjoy the clothes, jewellery, make up, dinners, experiences and private villas they were gifted by the brand. According to Vogue, everyone was flown on business-class Emirates flights to Dubai. And, with a return from Dubai to New York costing £10,725 ($13,254), flights alone could have cost the brand hundreds of thousands.
Who made the guest list for the Tarte influencer trip?
On the invite list for the all expenses paid trip to Dubai were 50 beauty and lifestyle influencers, including: Alix Earle, Monet McMichael, Meredith Duxbury, Xandra Pohl, Aisha and Azra Mian, Christine Abraham, Laila Mourad, Lucie Rose, and Maya Ahmad – plus their chosen guests.
So, what actually happened with Tarte in Dubai?
Obviously, the first thing most of the influencers did after arriving in Dubai was post a room tour of their private villas on TikTok for their followers to enjoy. Everyone on the trip was put put up in the Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach, where villas range from around £800 to £1,000 per night.
As Meredith walked around her tented villa, she made sure to let everyone know how luxurious it was: “This bathroom is bigger than my bedroom…look at how huge this is,” she explained of the humungous freestanding bath and vanity dresser before walking through to her lounge and king-sized bedroom.
“I swear to god, Tarte does a whole shopping spree for each person, every trip. It’s insane,” she said, showing off chic evening clothes, work out gear, swimwear, jewellery and makeup that had all been laid out in her room by the Tarte team ahead of her arrival.
Why exactly did Tarte take a load of influencers to Dubai?
For the trip, created in collaboration with Sephora Middle East, Tarte curated a “Glow Around The Globe” itinerary for their 50 guests that spanned across four days to create brand awareness. This included glam sessions, lavish dinners and a trip out to the desert where influencers zipped around on dune buggies and took pouting selfies with camels.
And, amid the madness, Tarte founder Maureen Kelly did actually reveal why she’d decided to bring the content creators on holiday: “The reason we brought you guys to the desert is because it’s a busy holiday season,” she said. “You guys work really hard and we thought you deserved a break…have a breather. Take a deep breath.”
“Am I the only one who thinks this is a really weird marketing move from Tarte?” questioned TikToker Lindsay Borow, who has over 21,000 followers. “I kind of feel they’re being a little tone-deaf. In this economy, it’s so unrelatable.”
Since the backlash, Tarte’s founder Maureen cleared things up with Vogue Business over email while still in Dubai: “This isn’t our first trip, but I can, of course, understand how people may have a knee-jerk reaction to seeing content overload like this,” she said.
“Every day, brands make decisions about how to spend their marketing budgets. For some companies, that means a huge Super Bowl commercial or a multi-million-dollar contract with a famous athlete or musician. We’ve never done traditional advertising, and instead, we invest in building relationships and building up communities. We hope that as people see what we’re doing together and what we’re all about, they’ll understand and have a stronger connection with Tarte.”
Where the hell did Tarte get all their money from?
Understandably, the big question everyone online has is— how are Tarte actually affording all of this? The most watched theory came from podcaster Jack McGuire who guessed the United Arab Emirates government paid for the trip to boost tourism in Dubai. But Tarte’s founder has explained that Dubai was chosen because the Middle East is one of Tarte’s fastest-growing markets, Vogue Business reports.
Other users pointed out it’s worth noting that the trip has a high-spend, high return structure: Tarte isn’t paying influencers to post on their socials but each content creator has posted numerous photos and videos to their stories regardless, when they usually charge thousands for sharing brand related posts:
“All these people think Tarte is losing money off of sending these influencers out to Dubai, yet each one of the influencers has posted three to four videos to their two million-plus following. The trip paid for itself already,” one person tweeted.
And as with everything #spon there’s a chance Tarte paid Emirates, The Ritz-Carlton etc in coverage rather than coin for the flights, accommodation, gifts and experiences. TikToker Jill Justine, who used to work for a magazine that hosted brand trips, revealed that “most of the time” the majority of the itinerary was free:
“Because we’re partnering with the hotels, because we’re partnering with the event, because we’re partnering with the experience,” she said. “The name of the game is exposure.”