Social & Influencers

What influencer marketers are expecting at Cannes this year

“This is a breakout year” for influencer marketing, Ryan Detert, CEO of marketing company Influential, told us.
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Anna Kim

5 min read

“Get ready with me to go to Cannes Lions” is a phrase that you could very well hear while scrolling on social media this month.

2024 marks the first year of Lions Creators, a networking and events experience dedicated to creators at Cannes Lions, which offers creators the opportunity to attend the festival at a discounted rate. For that reason, influencer marketers are abuzz, and they seem ready to take over the Croisette alongside creators in record numbers.

“Every year it incrementally gets bigger [for influencer marketing],” Ryan Detert, CEO of marketing company Influential, told us. “This is a breakout year, with the amount of spend being upward of $30+ billion in annual spend in influencer marketing.”

With the festival fast approaching, here are some of the trends and changes that influencer marketers are anticipating this year.

More creators than ever

Becky Owen, CMO of creator agency Billion Dollar Boy, has been going to the festival over the last 10 years, and she expects creators’ presences to become even more important over the next 10 to 20 years.

The festival’s formal recognition of creators through Lions Creators this year “both speaks to how slow it’s been…to be recognized, but also it speaks to the future of where it’s going,” she told us.

Detert said he expects to see “three- or fourfold more creators on the ground on the Croisette” this year, not only because of Lions Creators, but also because VidCon doesn’t conflict with Cannes this year, removing a potential scheduling conflict for creators who may want to attend both.

United Talent Agency will have nearly triple the number of creator clients at Cannes this year, its biggest presence to date, with attendees like Alix Earle, Ashley Flowers, and the duo Colin and Samir.

“Gen Zers are coming to Cannes Lions as creators, of course, but also really as a powerful force that’s shaking up the marketing world writ large,” Olivia Frary, UTA executive and head of the company’s ZCannes activation, told us.

And it’s not just creators who will likely be attending in higher numbers—it’s also the agents and marketers who work with them. Creator marketing agency Buttermilk will be at Cannes for the first time this year, which Chief Growth Officer Zoe Mitchell told us is an effort to glean inspiration from, and network with, other creator marketers as the space continues to grow and be taken more seriously.

“We’re really excited to know that brands are willing to listen to creator marketing as a genuine discipline that isn’t going away,” Mitchell said.

More intimate conversations

At this year’s festival, some agencies are keeping it small. Both Billion Dollar Boy and Influencer are opting for smaller events this year in an effort to encourage more 1:1 conversations with CMOs, VPs, and clients, execs told us. According to Ben Jeffries, CEO of Influencer, hot topics will include whether influencer marketing is a creative buy, a media buy, or both, and extending assets to other mediums like CTV.

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Jeffries expects performance measurement to be another big topic of conversation. Krishna Subramanian, co-founder of influencer marketing platform Captiv8, agreed, saying he believes the topic will come up a lot this year as the industry figures out the value of “a dollar spent with creators” compared to other mediums.

“When you think about it, you have creators who post content about a specific brand, then perhaps someone sees that video, then goes to search, clicks on a paid search ad, and search is getting credit and the creator’s not,” Subramanian said. “It’s thinking about what multitouch attribution looks like.”

Beyond that, more creators on the ground could present more opportunities for creators to speak directly with SVPs and CMOs and bridge the communication gap, Detert said. “Having a commonality, making a connection—I think that’s going to sow the seeds for future integrations and partnerships that we’ll see in the coming years with major brands and major celebrities or creators,” he said.

Owen echoed a similar idea, noting that creators have a “totally distinct model of operation” from the models that more traditional advertisers sometimes operate in. “Moments like this, where creators are embraced and fully brought in to the rest of the advertising ecosystem hopefully will mean that we share insight and intelligence and more people will recognize that it is a skill set that is unique, that needs to be learned and respected and honored, and not forced into another type of production model,” she said. “That would be amazing.”

More (you guessed it) AI

AI was definitely one of the buzziest words at Cannes Lions in 2023, and that seems likely to be the case for this year’s festival, as well. “The two most-overused phrases in influencer marketing are authenticity and GenAI, so I think those will be the most prevalent topics,” Detert said.

Given the technological advancements in the last year, some expect that this year’s AI conversations will look slightly different than last year but, Jeffries said, “AI is going to still be very much at the forefront, because it’s much more real this time.”

Influencer (the agency) plans to share examples around using AI to create multiple assets across paid social and in briefs, Jeffries said. Subramanian expects AI to also come up in conversations around brand safety and the ways it can help select creators to work with.

While there will be some use cases shared, Detert said he expects a lot of the conversations to be about the “prospect and potential” of AI, with more mainstream examples to come over the next few years.

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