Creator of Exclusive L.A. Influencer Mural Defends Stunt: "I Have No Shame"

Private Mural - Publicity - H 2018
Natalie Jarvey

The mural, which is only accessible to social media influencers with over 20,000 followers, is a marketing campaign for the upcoming go90 series 'Like and Subscribe.'

Stroll down Melrose Avenue, past the vintage clothing shops and tattoo parlors, turn into a small parking lot next to the Sportie LA sneaker store and there it is: a blue mural with a pink heart and angel wings. "City of Angels" is scrawled along the top, the words "love" and "art" run along the bottom. 

In appearance, this project is similar to the dozen or so murals that have popped up over Los Angeles in recent years, luring the Insta-famous and influencer aspirants, alike. But this wall is different. It is sheathed from public view by a white tent. A security guard stands out front, next to a sign that reads, "For verified influencers and people with over 20,000 followers only." 

It's been only one day since the painting appeared in that parking lot along Melrose, next to another popular winged mural that is open to the general public, but already it has drawn the ire of the internet. "This is pathetic," responded one Twitter user who, it should be pointed out, does not meet the requirements for a photo in front of the mural. Another called it "a shitty mural." A number of people have promised to vandalize the work of art.

"I'm honestly surprised it didn't get destroyed last night," says Jack Wagner, sounding relieved, as he smokes a cigarette and wanders the mostly empty parking lot on Tuesday morning. Wagner is the mastermind behind the stunt. It only took a little sleuthing, thanks to the Instagram and Twitter handles painted next to the mural itself, to learn that it was all a campaign to draw viewers to Wagner's upcoming Go90 series, Like and Subscribe, which he describes as a satire about influencers and the Hollywood types who have helped them find internet fame. 

While Wagner was working on the show, he spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of online fame and the Instagram-obsessed culture that has resulted. "It is a very strange phenomenon when you see all these people literally traveling to take a picture in front of these murals in L.A.," he says. "So I thought, 'what if there was a more exclusive, rare mural for people to Instagram? It could show a true level of status.' This mural really just showcases that you're on a different echelon."

Wagner and his fellow producers staged the installation on their own with Go90's blessing. They found a well-trafficked spot in Los Angeles, got buy-in from Sportie LA next door, commissioned an artist (who is remaining anonymous — for now) and hired a security guard. By 4 p.m. on the first day, there was a line. Several people were turned away. "I'm surprised at how many people desperately wanted to take a picture with this," Wagner admits, gesturing toward the tented mural.  

He also wasn't expecting the pushback. "A lesson I've learned is that verified influencers don't like to be called verified influencers," he says. "Companies get on their hands and knees to beg influencers to promote their stuff. We're just being direct about it. I have no shame."

In many ways, the mural is just an extension of the upcoming Like and Subscribe, which stars Dillon Francis as a supermanager of influencers. The cast also includes comedian Brandon Wardell and former SNL castmember John Milhiser. It will run for seven episodes that range in length from 15 minutes to 25 minutes. "Writing a satire about influencer culture and social media was way harder than I thought," Wagner says. "I would write a scene that I thought would be so ridiculous and absurd and then a couple weeks later, it would happen in real life." He points to the controversy that arose after Logan Paul posted a video featuring the dead body of a suicide victim. "That wasn't a specific scene but was just far more absurd than anything I had thought of for the characters."   

Wagner doesn't worry about backlash over the mural from the influencer community. He says the stunt was "meant to be entertainment for everybody" — including those with 20,000-plus followers. At the end of the day, his team's goals are not that different: gain followers, gain an audience. Notes Wagner: "We gotta do what we gotta do to get people to talk about the show."