Influencer Marketing to Win Lions: Has Cannes Lost It Completely?

Opinion: Social media isn’t going anywhere, and neither is self-expression

One of the additions that truly reflects the changing nature of the industry is the Social and Influencer category
Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, with its dense heritage, famously recognizes and rewards the best in creativity, marketing communications, entertainment, design, tech and innovation. It is considered the ultimate award for organizations working in the advertising and media world.

However, this long-standing festival is changing. And with this past year’s progression in all things digital, it’s no surprise that Cannes Lions has modified the program to reflect it.

This includes a restructuring of the nine staple awards, with the addition of the Brand Experience and Activation, Creative E-Commerce and Social and Influencer Lions. More than 100 subcategories have been removed, and campaign entries have been limited to just six, giving smaller, independent agencies a better chance of being recognized.

These alterations have been considered at length in order to “put creative content back at the heart of Cannes Lions,” says Ascential Events CEO Phillip Thomas.

One of the additions that truly reflects the changing nature of the industry is the Social and Influencer category.

More than just a social media post

Through this addition, Cannes is heroically showcasing influencer marketing as a worthy part of the modern marketing mix. Why? It’s not falling for the idea that social media marketing has a sell-by date. And this is the general consensus right now—that the influencer marketing bubble will pop.

But we’re only seeing more and more opportunities for brands in harnessing the power of human storytelling. The fundamental development is, in the words of director of eBay and Procter and Gamble Scott Cook, that “a brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is, it is what consumers tell each other it is.” And influencers are consumers, after all, encouraging meaningful dialogs with their audiences through social media.

Just look at Emily Weiss, an influencer who leveraged the power of her audience to shape her passion into a cult cosmetic company, Glossier, now a $1 million venture.

Last year, 86 percent of marketers were reported to have used influencer marketing as a key component of their strategy to drive growth and brand engagement.

What does it all mean? Influencer marketing and content sharing in the digital space is shaking up traditional advertising methods.

But should these feats be positively recognized by Cannes? The answer is, simply, yes. The addition of the Social and Influencer category is a massive nod to what social media has done for creativity—not only in democratizing it, but in acting as an incubator for it and, most important, propelling it forward.

Creativity: Does one size fit all?

Today, the digital space has become a canvas for us all as content creators. Creativity can no longer be pinned down in a single sentence. Your job title doesn’t need to include “creative” in order for you to contribute creativity. You don’t have to be an art director to create beautiful projects. And you don’t need to be a creative agency to produce creative work. As the founder of an influencer marketing agency, I’m working to make this truth known to the wider digital industry.

In an industry that never stagnates, why shouldn’t our views on what’s recognized as creative also continue to change? Social media isn’t going anywhere, and neither is self-expression. Influencer marketing and human-to-human interaction provides a space where everyone has the freedom to be a creator in their own right. We’re just thrilled to see that Cannes Lions has finally recognized this, too.

Maddie Raedts is founder of influencer marketing agency IMA.