The 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity came and went, celebrating the hottest creative brands, tech advancements, and innovative strategies reshaping the media world. This year, Cannes Lions announced it was adding a new Social Influencer Category to its awards repertoire, a move heralded as the festival’s recognition of the importance of influencer marketing.
Serendipitously, one of the most talked-about topics from the past few weeks has been the focus on influencer marketing, but instead of the narrative of creativity and authenticity, it was the need for technology and oversight. Brands and agencies stated that they need to make sure consumers are verifiably seeing and engaging with branded content. This was, in large part, sparked by the comments of Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, during his Cannes panels, where he addressed the need for transparency.
Brands have a valid concern with all the reports of fake followers and engagements being reported in major publications over the past several months. History tends to repeat itself, and this is reminiscent of the ad fraud that was seen in programmatic display, not long ago, with bots being used to generate fake impressions and engagements. This greatly affected the ad tech industry and multibillion-dollar companies we're built as a response to track and remove this threat.
The first steps were taken last month, as the brands that control the purse strings are demanding transparency and solutions. To understand how CMOs can combat this issue, first they need to understand what a bot actually is.
Bot or not?
In their most basic form, bots are computer programs that are trained to speak like humans. They serve many functions and, depending on the context that you’re speaking about them, they can be both good and bad.
On the positive side, bots were created to help automate tasks, saving companies money and time by having bots do things that would otherwise require additional manpower to accomplish. Even commonplace virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa have bot functions like automatically gathering the weather or traffic reports. Unfortunately though, bots can also be used for ill, and they are currently a rampant problem that is plaguing virtually every social media network.
In order to better understand the landscape of bad bots, each type of bot can be broken down by type: vanity bots, political bots, and conversion/traffic bots. Each type of bot was created with the intention of doing things like driving traffic, spreading misinformation, or boosting appearances.
A select few companies have used AI to identify these bots and provide a rating or percentage to know whether the audience is worth the investment.
How can Cannes Lions further influencer marketing?
While we are optimistic that brands and agencies are paying attention, whether it's because of a call for transparency or a celebration of creativity, we still strongly feel that more could be done to bring awareness to this burgeoning industry. The Cannes Lions should certainly make an effort to recruit more influencers to attend the annual event. It would be great to see more influencers, technology/data companies, and thought leaders invited to speak on panels and maybe even have an influencer-specific summit. Surely, the beauty of the French Rivera, the fate of billions of brand dollars, along with the seemingly endless supply of rosé is a compelling motivator.