Will Cannes help influencers get the acceptance they deserve?

After the introduction of an influencer category was met with criticism, Vamp’s Aaron Brooks argues why we need to call time on influencer skeptics.
11 June 2018

The Cannes Lion, coveted by all those in creative communications, advertising and related fields. Source: Shutterstock

Next Monday marks the start of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

As always, media eyes will be focused on the prestigious festival and awards program which has been running since 1954.

This year, in an attempt to modernize, the annual event has received a shake-up and a new social and influencer category has been added to the mix.

This addition, and its wider restructuring aims to “put creative content back at the heart of Cannes Lions” said Ascential Events CEO Phillip Thomas.

Yet, rather than celebrate their steps to recognize and adapt to the modern zeitgeist, it has attracted predictable – and tedious – criticism.

It seems that for many traditionalists, the idea of an institution as established as Cannes Lions recognizing influencer marketing as equally worthy of celebration is too much to bear.

It was the same story earlier this month when the Council of Fashion Designers of American created an Influencer Award to honor Kim Kardashian.

Critics were quick to dismiss the power and selling potential of a woman who has 112m followers on Instagram alone. Or suggested that creating such a category would cheapen the awards as a whole.

Skepticism of influencers is nothing new. As co-founder of an influencer marketing platform, I see it almost daily.

Even as the sector grows into the US$10 billion industry its predicted to become in 2020 and statistics continue to prove its worth, criticism of influencer marketing prevails.

Why is this?

Could it be snobbery? Despite growing up as digital natives, many protest that this next generation of content creators, often self-taught, shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Despite the awe-inspiring content they produce earning them thousands of followers. Often far more than a brand has itself.

Or maybe they are focusing on the inevitable shortcomings of an emerging industry.

Fast conclusions drawn from ‘fake follower’ headlines lead people to make ‘wild west’ assumptions of the industry as a whole.

Often they know little about the regulation measures actually in place. Sure they exist, but a couple of cowboys does not a wild west make.

Perhaps it’s fear? Fear of modernization, competition, and a fast-moving media landscape that agencies may not be prepared for.

Influencers make a big difference to millennial shoppers. Source: Shutterstock

Or maybe it’s simply ignorance? In the interest of giving the benefit of the doubt – and for all of the remaining skeptics in the house – here are some stats that might help clear things up.

Millennials value recommendations

A huge 70 percent of millennial consumers are influenced by the recommendations of their peers in buying decisions.

Since influencer marketing is word of mouth recommendation for the digital age, it’s little wonder it’s such an effective strategy.

High trust equals high engagement  

Audiences respond best to messages from people they trust.

Since 84 percent of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising, but 92 percent of consumers have been cited saying they trust influencers more than adverts or celebrity endorsements, it’s not surprising that user-generated content featuring a brand drives 6.9X higher engagement than content generated by the brand itself.

Authentic recommendations

With specialism comes authority. Half of the consumers are more likely to buy a product on the recommendation of someone who specializes in that area.

In working with micro and macro influencers, brands are able to find individuals with real resonance and achieve an authentic product placement.

In 2016, 40 percent of those surveyed said they had already bought an item after seeing an influencer use it on a social platform.

Captive audiences

Consumers have more choice of brands and media channels than ever before and the use of ad blockers is on the rise.

Even in 2013, half of the users admitted they never clicked on online ads.

Reaching captive audiences is harder than ever but what we do know is Instagram has 500million daily users and 72 percent of them make purchase decisions based on what they have seen on the app.

It’s not going anywhere

Last year it was predicted that 39 percent of marketers would increase influencer marketing budgets in 2018 and influencer marketing ad spend is set to reach between US$5 billion and US$10 billion in 2022.

Influencer marketing is cost-effective, impactful and here to stay.

Since it works best as part of a wider marketing mix, surely there’s enough room for everyone in the awards schedule?

After all, industries evolve and attempting to hold back the tide of modernization is about as effective as an out of date marketing strategy.


Contributed by Aaron Brooks, co-founder of influencer and content marketing platform, Vamp