What makes a great social and influencer campaign?

Companies are looking for new ways to engage with their customers

In terms of measurable returns, influencer engagement scores much higher than most brand content. Brand videos on Facebook have an average watch time of 4.57 seconds, while influencers’ videos get tens of minutes. And according to recent studies, influencers are more trusted by GenZ and Millennials (not to mention far cheaper) than celebrities or athletes.

A large number of entries are expected for the Social & Influencer Lions at the 2020/2021 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. As well as pre-COVID-19 work, many campaigns were launched throughout the pandemic when more brands were connecting with consumers through social platforms.

For an entry to be in the running, it needs to demonstrate high levels of engagement and social reach as well as creative use of the medium or ambassadors and influencers. But the work that will really stand out will demonstrate new ways of using social platforms or have a message that deeply resonates with people.

Social reflects what’s happening in the real world, so it will be interesting to see how brands navigate issues and opportunities when it comes to connecting with people during these times of heightened political and cultural unrest.

As I look across the agencies within WPP, I wanted to share a few notable pieces from the past year that may help give us an idea of what to expect at Cannes 2020/2021.

Wendy’s: Keeping Fortnite Fresh – VMLY&R Kansas City

This one is an obvious pick – it won the Grand Prix in 2019 and reached hundreds of thousands of players through one of the biggest games in the world, Fortnite. The idea: Wendy’s – who famously do not sell frozen meat – went in-game to destroy freezers that contained burgers and they live-streamed it all on Twitch. The campaign enabled our client, Wendy’s, to engage the gaming community and become part of their entertainment without interrupting it. PJ Pereira, 2019 Jury Chair for Social & Influencer, suggested that this type of seamless brand engagement had all the makings of a new trend.

Aeromexico: There Are No Borders Within Us – Ogilvy Bogotá

Aeromexico needed more US passengers, but it faced a challenge: conversations around the idea of building a wall between the countries were becoming increasingly xenophobic. While brands often shy away from addressing controversial issues, Aeromexico used humour in its campaign and picked an opportune time to launch it on social, resulting in a rise in sales and more than a few changed perceptions of Mexico.

Burger King: AOR Agency of Robots – David Miami

We all need a little levity, and BK pitched it perfectly with this work (with robots in charge of the creative, what can go wrong?). Whenever new technology is introduced, there’s always some anxiety surrounding it, and AI has caused a ripple of concern through our industry. This campaign again proves how BK succeeds in making work that’s culturally relevant, often weaving in real-time responses and getting in on the conversation.

Procter & Gamble: Gillette First Shave – Grey Toronto

In this film series, four transgender men take a step on their journey with the help and guidance of influencers within the transgender community. There will always be some debate about whether brands should get involved in purpose-driven work of this type, but I believe that if they are authentically trying to help spread positive messages, then, yes, they should.

Berlei: I Touch Myself Project X Serena – Wunderman Thompson Sydney

When bra brand Berlei partnered with super-influencer Serena Williams, it knew women would listen. Having Serena transform the Divinyls’ hit song I Touch Myself into a breast health message was smart, strategic and culturally relevant. She launched the video on The Sunday Project, but the real influence came with posting to her more than 10 million followers. The message reached more than a billion people in 95 countries, showing the power of social to spread worldwide health awareness.

Future forward thinking in the social and influencer space

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, social became a vital way to communicate and connect with others. We experienced concerts in Fortnite, attended Animal Crossing weddings and bought digital attire on Instagram. TikTok went beyond being a fun content platform to a place in which to form unique communities.

This is a new era of social. We’ve accepted that we don’t have to be physically present to be socially active. We can connect with our friends and audiences wherever we are, and social platforms aspire to become places where we can get all our needs met. Facebook Shops, Facebook Messenger Rooms and Facebook’s Libra are signs of what’s to come.

As contextual commerce continues to rise, the line between editorial and commerce continues to blur. Promoting products in ways that feel like recommendations rather than hard sells will unlock even more creative opportunity. Influencers will continue evolving, too, becoming more authentic. In Asia, Li Ziqi and the granfluencers are just two examples of the way influencers are moving towards more genuine voices.

Engaging consumers on a human level has never been more critical for brands. Social is a key place to do this. Understanding customers’ values is now a must, not a nice-to-have. Charles Gooch, Group Connections Director at VMLY&R, suggests we’re moving from a social world where brands talk-then-listen-then-act to brands listening (to your audience and what they need) then acting (whether through cause leadership or activations) then talking (about what you’ve done).

Going further forward into the Metaverse, Matt Keck, Associate Director of Conversation Design at VMLY&R, suggests that our online identities (values and all) will bleed over into secondary digital environments and that brands will take their places in these immersive worlds. It’s a vision of the future that isn’t too far-fetched and I’m excited by the prospect of creating amazing ways to connect brands to their customers at the frontier of the ever-evolving social universe.

Debbi Vandeven

Global Chief Creative Officer, VMLY&R

published on

26 June 2020


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