Star power at Cannes Lions: What brands can learn from celebrities

Sponsored by: TubeMogul
TubeMogul at Cannes

Throughout this week, the TubeMogul team will be bringing us regular updates from Cannes Lions, giving us the lowdown on what’s hot, what’s not, who won big, and what the future holds for the media industry.

Kanye at Cannes: photo by Getty Images

Cannes Lions is no longer purely a festival of creativity. The advertising industry has transformed and this week it’s as much about social media, technology and the cult of celebrity as it is about the creative on display.

Speaking of social media, celebrity endorsements and appearances often garner the greatest volume of social engagement – but do the many celebrities in attendance bring anything more to the festival than hype?

In a word, yes. The celebrities we see at Cannes are just as recognisable as all the major companies in attendance, and they know just as much about branding. Kanye West phrased it “celebrity is the highest form of communication; we are like walking networks or TV shows or brands”. We see this in the way they think about their target audience, carefully cultivating their image, and suffer heavily from any press that goes against the core values upon which their success rests – just like any brand. As a result the contributions they make to the festival are, for the most part, considered and relevant to our industry.

Kanye certainly appealed to the Cannes audience with his moral take on branding and the culture of creativity. He claimed that “a creative has to believe more in an idea than their personal well being” – echoing industry heavyweight Marissa Meyer’s sentiment that “digital advertising needs to aspire to be as good as art”.

Celebrity can also teach us lessons about relevancy. In 24 hours alone #hoffornot attracted 350 posts per hour, with Golin’s Matt Neale attributing the success to David Hassehoff’s ‘relevant strength of entertaining'. This makes a valid point about advertising because much is made at Cannes about beauty in campaigns, but the entertainment factor is just as crucial to generating engagement.

If there is any duo at this point in time that know how to entertain and hold the attention of a large audience it is Game of Thrones' D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. The recently aired season four finale of Game of Thrones was HBO’s most-watched finale to date and its creators took to the stage yesterday to discuss ‘the power of story and stories of power’. Storytelling has been a major theme of the festival, with Patrick Stewart taking part in the Twitter ‘Art of Live Storytelling’ event, speaking of how the social platform enabled him to inject fun into his persona through his online ‘bromance’ with Sir Ian McKellen. The lesson here is that something simple, but relevant and entertaining can create a change in perception – and if it can work for a celebrity, surely the same is possible for brands.

In reality advertising and celebrity have always gone hand in hand, but the arrival of the internet and social media has pushed the stars further towards being brands in their own right. The individuals that do a good job are household names and social media heavyweights – the envy of any brand marketer at Cannes. Ultimately we all agree that getting the creative right is crucial, but we are all beginning to understand that delivering the right experience to the right consumer in the right way is just as important, and this complex issue faced by marketers and celebrities alike.

Jay Prasad is VP of global business TubeMogul

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