Elliot Tebele, founder of marketing firm Jerry Media and creator of the popular Fuckjerry Instagram account, said today that his company will no longer post content without being able to identify its creator and without that creator’s express and advance consent. The change comes in response to backlash from the comedy world, which has long despised accounts like Fuckjerry’s for profiting off jokes, memes, and other creative works on the internet without approval and, in earlier years, without crediting an original creator at all.
“In the past few years, I have made a concerted, proactive effort to properly credit creators for their work. We have also updated our policies to make sure we are responsive to creators whenever they have reached out to us about posts,” Tebele wrote in a post published to Medium this afternoon. “It hasn’t been a perfect system, but I do feel it was a significant improvement, as many of my peers have approached these issues in the same way. Given the conversations over the past few days, and the issues that have come to light, it is clear however, that we need to do better.”
The backlash began after Vulture writer Megh Wright penned an article earlier this week detailing how Jerry Media, because it operates in the loose world of social media marketing, routinely uses comedian’s jokes to help promote products — something the company is paid tens of thousands of dollars per post to do. Following the article, and Wright’s accompanying viral Twitter thread, the hashtag #fuckfuckjerry began trending as a way to draw attention to how social media marketing, and the economy of likes and followers on platforms like Instagram, exploits small and independent creators mostly to market products and make money for aggregator accounts like Fuckjerry.
Jerry Media, as the owner of the Fuckjerry account, is able to use its massive 14.2-million followers on Instagram to command high prices for branded posts and consulting gigs, all while still relying on the nonchalant, reposting meme culture from which the account was first born. In recent weeks, the company has also gained a bit of notoriety for having been partially responsible for hyping up the disastrous Fyre Festival, as the firm hired to be the event’s social media strategist.
And yet, despite the Fyre Festival’s legal and financial fallout, Jerry Media’s direct involvement in Netflix’s documentary on the subject has further earned it a reputation as a cutting-edge marketing firm. Case in point: The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz reported earlier this week that Tebele’s firm is now representing the world-record Instagram egg account, which appears to have inked a Super Bowl-related ad deal with Hulu, likely for millions of dollars.
The tipping point in this latest episode appears to have been Comedy Central deciding to pull advertising from Fuckjerry in response to the hashtag and Wright’s article. The move threatened to instigate a full-blown advertiser boycott as more attention is brought to how freely large accounts steal other people’s content and repost it for their own financial gain. And now, it’s clear Tebele is trying to get out ahead of it.
“As the social media landscape changes, we know our policies will have to continue to evolve, and we look forward to engaging with our followers and Instagram in conversations about these important issues,” he writes. “We want to apologize to anyone who feels we have wronged them in the past. We want to do the right thing by creators by seeking permission and giving them the credit they deserve.”