The Social & Influencer Lions celebrate creative social thinking and strategic influencer marketing solutions. In 2022, that describes a considerable portion of the creative work being made. But, as jury president Caitlin Ryan says, many brands fail to hit the mark when trying to react quickly and with relevance in the social space. The VP at Meta and regional creative director, EMEA for Creative Shop also knows how flawed many of the ways the influencer market is treated by the creative industries. We caught up with Caitlin ahead of the jury room to find out what she’ll be looking for in the work that exceeds expectations in the Social & Influencer category.
LBB> How are you preparing for the jury room this year?
Caitlin> I’ve been keeping a clear view on what my vision is for the type and quality of work that should be awarded and celebrated, balancing that with being able to listen to my fellow jurors and make space for their views in my own considerations. I also am spending time to ensure I fully understand the work that is unfamiliar to me - either because it taps into a different culture, or is on a platform with which I am not as familiar. I think this is the joy of Cannes - celebrating a wide and diverse body of work.
LBB> What is it about the Social & Influencer category that really excites or interests you?
Caitlin> Ultimately, social platforms are about connection, not just amplification. I believe we can drive not just human connection, but commercial success for brands and businesses - and to be able to do that is imperative right now as our industry and economies face headwinds.
LBB> And what are the current big debates within the category - or more generally across the industry - that you expect to see coming through in the judging?
Caitlin> So many! I think there will be ongoing debates on the role of social media - is it a platform for brands to tap into culture, to shape culture or to reflect it? How do we ensure diverse voices have equity when they collaborate with brands? How do we break away from linear storytelling and embrace layered storytelling? How do we ensure that commerce gets the same creative attention as brand building on social media platforms? How do we start building for the future? What will advertising in the metaverse look like - how will the democratisation of creativity impact the work and the talent in the industry.
LBB> It’s the first in-person Cannes since the start of the pandemic, a pivotal moment for an industry that’s been massively disrupted - how do you think that’s going to shape your thinking about your category in particular?
Caitlin> The pandemic absolutely accelerated the journey of digital transformation. The brands that stood out and really succeeded during that time were the ones that provided real value for people through their digital experiences.
We also saw brands build work with DEI at the core. This intentional inclusion I think lays out a blueprint for a more inclusive industry and body of work in the future.
LBB> Last year one of the winners in the category was Burger King's 'The Stevenage Challenge'. What lessons would you take from that for creating great work in this category?
Caitlin> I think this work shows you the power of work that rallies a community. Fans look for a value exchange with brands. They will immerse themselves in an experience if there is something in it for them - and brands that understand and harness this, as Burger King did, reap the rewards.
LBB> The other Grand Prix went to Reddit's 'Superb Owl'. What do you take from that?
Caitlin> The ability for a brand to react quickly and with relevance to an event; whether of their own making, or something happening in culture - is often key to that brand being able to harness the power of social media. Many brands try it and don’t quite hit the mark. So when a brand hits the bullseye, the crowd sings back - and the awards roll in!
LBB> Like PR, it's probably fair to say that every campaign is social these days. How does great creativity ensure it flourishes on social?
Caitlin> Creative ideas that flourish on social are the ideas that have people’s behaviours, motivations, and passions at the core. But there also needs to be a thread that strongly connects an idea back to the brand. Great creativity that flourishes on social platforms understands the language of the platforms - the brand feels authentic and connected seamlessly to culture, not shoehorned in.
LBB> On the Influencer side of things, the category is still prone to being sneered at by the industry establishment to some degree. What's the key to overcoming those misconceptions?
Caitlin> Frankly, I think the name ‘Influencer’ may have something to do with that. We’re used to thinking about ‘influencer campaigns’ in a very narrow sense, but what’s actually happening is an absolute renaissance of creativity coming from creators all over the world. They are the most innovative and experimental storytellers on social platforms and they can connect with their communities in a far more meaningful and authentic way than any brand could alone. I am optimistic that this year’s LIONS will reflect this shift from ‘influencer campaigns’ – ones where brands are simply tapping into the reach of online personalities – to the more strategic partnerships that brands are forging with creators, collaborating deeply with them at the forefront of platform innovation and creativity.