Social & Influencers

Cannes Lions bet on creators this year. Did it pay off?

“There were definitely two to three times as many influencers,” Chris Detert, CCO at marketing company Influential, told us.
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Dave Benett/Getty Images

5 min read

No, you weren’t imagining it. By the estimation of some attendees, the creator presence at Cannes Lions was bigger than ever this year.

“It was truly a multiplier effect compared to last year,” Chris Detert, CCO at marketing company Influential, told us. “There were definitely two to three times as many influencers.”

The larger-than-usual creator presence at the festival, which some attendees predicted ahead of time, can be in part attributed to it being the first year of Lions Creators, a track dedicated to creator programming, networking, and events that was jointly led by Cannes Lions and Viral Nation.

Joe Gagliese, co-CEO and co-founder of Viral Nation, said the experience this year “blew [his] expectations away.” At one point, he said there were more than 200 creators on the creator rooftop atop the Palais. Outside of the Palais, companies like Amazon, TikTok, and Meta worked with creators to post content about the festival, and influencer Alix Earle racked up over 240k likes on a TikTok about her experience at the festival.

We spoke with attendees about how the first year of Lions Creators went and what they hope to see from next year’s festival.

Hot topics

Halle Alice, a content creator at ad agency Gale, attended Cannes Lions for the first time this year because of Lions Creators.

“When the creator track opened up, my CEO was just like, ‘You’re going,’” she told us. “I didn’t have to do too much back-bending. Our C-suite saw the value in me going, and the marketing industry is seeing the value in creators being there.”

Alice said she connected with creator managers and social strategists at the festival, and found that the centralized creator space in the Palais worked well as a meeting place for industry attendees. With that said, there were some things that could be improved: Alice said that panel discussions with larger creators didn’t always provide insight for others on how to grow their followings and break into the industry.

Some creator marketers told us they hoped this year’s festival would serve to bridge gaps between creators and brand executives, but some said those gaps remain. Becky Owen, CMO of creator agency Billion Dollar Boy, told us she noticed a disconnect between what creators were interested in discussing and what brands were interested in discussing.

“The trending conversation among creators was around wanting more empathy in brand partnerships and wanting to be viewed and treated as true creative partners instead of commodities,” Owen said in an email. “On the other hand, the trending conversation among brands was around innovative ways of working with creators.”

Bigger and better?

Some attendees have other ideas for improvements. Detert said the creator track felt “a little bit disparate,” in his opinion, and Alice said the Lions Creator program felt “a bit isolated” from the rest of the festival.

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Some Lions Creators programming conflicted with Influential’s, Detert said, an issue he hopes doesn’t come up again. “In the future, we’ll look to align with [Cannes Lions] a little bit better so that we can create programming that their team and their creators can attend and not be competing against them as much,” he told us.

Given how different Cannes Lions is from other creator events, Owen said many creators could have benefited from “more support and structure” in navigating the festival.

“There was confusion on what they could and couldn’t attend and how to access other areas of the festival, which kept many siloed to the creator area,” Owen said, later adding that “it would have been nice if their presence was more integrated into the main festival and if it felt a bit more connected.”

Owen said the sticker shock of attending could have limited the number of less-established creators in attendance compared to macro-creators and celebrities at the festival. And Gagliese said price was his one point of feedback to the Cannes Lions team. With more time to plan next year’s festival, he said, it could become naturally more affordable.

“I think if we give [creators] a runway in terms of time, it’ll really help them to be able to drive those costs down and make it more reasonable,” he said.

Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, said he expects to see more underwriting from brands and agencies in the future to help get creators on the ground. Gagliese agreed, saying “we’ve all gotta do it as a collective.”

Alice said the experience with Lions Creators was positive overall, and she attributed any hiccups to the newness of the program. “I don’t think that Creators have yet claimed their stake in advertising as a whole. I think next year, we’ll see a lot of progress,” she said.

Gagliese’s hope for 2025 is to get even more creators to the festival. “The way that the [creator] space is moving, I feel like it’s going to naturally continue to grow,” he said. “I think the things that we did this year are just going to get bigger.”

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