Nothing about her Instagram account seemed out of the ordinary.
Louise Delage looked like a glamorous young French woman having the time of her life: Drinking cocktails on yachts, eating at chic restaurants, and sipping champagne in a bubble bath. So glamorous, in fact, that the 25-year-old Parisian racked up more than 50,000 followers after joining the site on August 1.
Like many Instagram stars, she had numerous admiring commenters: “Wow. You’re beautiful!” wrote one smitten social media user. “Super cute!” posted another.
But on September 30, Delage updated her Instagram with one final video, fast-forwarding through all the previous posts on her account and revealing one chilling connection: Every single one of the 149 pictures she posted showed her with an alcoholic drink in her hand.
Louise Delage’s account wasn’t what it seemed, and neither was she.
“Louise Delage” is actually a French student, posing as part of a campaign for Addict Aide, a French organization that helps people get sober, and was made by a Paris advertising agency, BETC. Her real name is a secret, according to BETC president Stéphane Xiberras.
The point they’re hoping to make is that it’s all too easy to miss the signs of addiction.
“She’s the girl next door, she could be your daughter or someone you know,” explained Xiberras.
“You can miss something like this. It’s so difficult for parents if your child is an alcoholic, you are not able to find the clues and understand things.”
He said that few people noticed the Instagram account wasn’t genuine, “but that is the point. No one noticed. [They thought] this girl has everything. That was the point.”
Addict Aide estimates that addictions are behind 1 in 5 deaths yearly in France, and in one out of two criminal acts, especially among young people.
Xiberras is happy with the impact of the ad campaign. It became a trending topic on Twitter in France and the video won 500,000 total views across Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.
“You can reach a lot of people through the use of the media. It’s crazy,” he said.