For about 70 years, the Cannes Lions festival laid out a red carpet for medias A-listers- Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, HBO CEO Richard Plepler to celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Helen Mirren among others. This year, however, Cannes has witnessed a slow of social media personalities invited on the grounds of their huge Instagram or YouTube followings. In another unexpected step, the annual event has added a new social and influencer category to the mix.
Considered the ultimate award for organizations working in the advertising and media world, Cannes Lions has attracted criticism from many traditionalists who believe that influencers cannot be recognized at par with traditional creativity, calling the phenomenon the ‘wild west’ of advertising. A similar criticism was put forth when the Council of Fashion Designers of American created an Influencer Award to honor Kim Kardashian
This addition was a part of a larger restructuring of the awards with the addition of the Brand Experience and Activation, Creative E-Commerce and Social and Influencer Lions categories, intended to “put creative content back at the heart of Cannes Lions” said Ascential Events CEO Phillip Thomas.
It was Nike’s “Nothing Like a Londoner” campaign that put a spotlight on London’s sports influencers- school kids, amateurs and professionals-making them shine against the gritty and unwieldy backdrop of their hometown which took home the inaugural prize. Created by Wieden & Kennedy, this campaign went viral mostly because of how personal the influencer’s stories felt- they griped about how tough it is to train, but did it anyway. Each is one-upped by the next, boasting about their more trying circumstances as the scenes get crazier and more fast-paced. Apart from the video, the campaign was boosted on social media by the cast posting their individual scenes and linking to the next “competitor” on Instagram.
Nike created individual pieces of content that threaded together naturally into a larger piece. Dropping limited edition merchandise, and connecting with celebrities in a minor way, the campaign leveraged personal connections to London’s sports and social media scenes. Unfortunately, the three-minute long video was taken off Youtube due to legal trouble regarding the use of “LDNR.” D’Arcy noted that the jury was instructed by the festival to disregard that fact when it came to evaluating the entire list of entries.
The addition of the category is a nod to how social media has influenced a shift in the advertising world and by recognizing this Cannes will encourage many more brands to include influencer marketing into their marketing mix.
As Scott Cook, the director of eBay and Procter and Gamble, states “a brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is, it is what consumers tell each other it is.” And since consumers are thronging on social channels where influencers lead marketing efforts, influencer marketing is here to stay.