From digital screens to Cannes Film Festival: Digital influence matches up to traditional stardom

Hamsini Shivakumar and Naheed Akhtar from Leapfrog Strategy Consulting dive into a semiotic analysis of Indian content creators’ presence at the Cannes Film Festival and discuss how brands can leverage the synergy of fashion, film, and content creators

Hamsini Shivakumar
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New Delhi: Indian influencers walking the Cannes Film Festival's red carpet, have marked a significant cultural moment. From digital screens to a global platform, the Indian ecosystem of digital influencers showcases the synergy of fashion, films, and brand marketing that the Cannes Film Festival is tapping into. 

From Fashion and lifestyle influencers like Ankush Bahuguna, and Masoom Minawala, to sensational digital creators like Viraj Ghelani, Niharika NM, and Vishnu Kaushal, to actors like Ayush Mehra, the Indian Influencer community were absolute stunners on the red carpet of Cannes. Celebrated Chef Sanjyot Keer, Digital Finance Wizard Sharan Hegde, and choreographer Shehzaan Khan also shared the limelight.  

Let’s dive into the semiotic analysis of this recent talk on the globe and involve ourselves in a deeper understanding of signs, symbols, context, and their meanings.  


Cannes from the semiotic eye 

Signs and symbols:

  1. Red carpet: Traditionally a space for film stars, it signifies prestige and exclusivity. Influencers walking this carpet symbolise a shift in recognising digital fame alongside traditional stardom.
  2. Outfits by designers: Each influencer wore designer outfits, symbolising fashion's integral role in modern identity and influence. This showcases the collaboration between influencers and fashion designers, emphasizing the mutual elevation of status. Also, this highlights their role as key players in contemporary culture.
  3. Brut India partnership: Brut, a media partner, invited these influencers, symbolising the blending of traditional media and new digital influencers. 
  4. Global platform: Cannes as a global platform symbolises prestige and recognition. Influencers’ presence here denotes the increasing importance and recognition of digital influence on an international stage.


  1. Democratisation of fame: Influencers walking the Cannes red carpet indicate a shift towards a more inclusive notion of fame, where the digital presence and social media impact are acknowledged alongside a traditional celebrity.
  2. Cultural Hybridisation: Influencers bring a blend of traditional and contemporary elements to the festival, representing India's cultural hybridisation and modern identity where we see traditional media, fashion, and digital content creation intersect.
  3. Social media influence: The backlash from netizens highlights the tension between traditional media expectations and the evolving landscape where social media influence is prominent.
  4. Commercial influence: The emphasis on the commercial impact of influencers is noteworthy. Their ability to engage with audiences and create relatable content provides brands with unique marketing opportunities.

Semiotic implications:

  1. Cultural validation: Influencers at Cannes represent a shift towards digital creators receiving cultural validation, acknowledging their impact on modern media and advertising.
  2. Shift in aspirations: This event reflects changing aspirations where digital influence is becoming a significant marker of success. Now, digital influence is becoming as desirable and impactful as traditional stardom.
  3. Marketing opportunities: Collaborations between brands and influencers at such prestigious events highlight the easy accessibility, potential, and changing dynamics of digital marketing strategies.  Influencers offer authentic engagement, relatability, and direct communication with audiences, making them valuable for brand endorsements and campaigns.

Brand benefits from influencers at Cannes:

Enhanced reach and engagement:

  1. Global Exposure: By collaborating with influencers, brands gain access to their extensive follower base, ensuring global reach and engagement.
  2. Authenticity: Influencers often have a more personal connection with their audience, which can translate to more genuine and effective brand endorsements. 

“Dolly Singh who is famous for her quirky and fun content on Instagram says she received comments like: “ It feels like I am there with you.” on posting her pictures from the Film Festival, thus speaking for her resonating factor with her follower base.”

Versatility and Adaptability:

  1. Content creation: Influencers are skilled content creators, adept at producing visually appealing and engaging content that resonates with audiences.
  2. Real-Time engagement: Influencers can provide real-time updates and interactions, enhancing the dynamic and interactive nature of marketing campaigns.

Examples of effective brand-influencer collaborations:

  1. Product placement: Brands can leverage influencers to showcase their products organically, seamlessly integrating them into the influencer’s content.
  2. Event coverage: Influencers can offer behind-the-scenes glimpses, exclusive interviews, and unique perspectives, creating a buzz and drawing more attention to the brand and the global event. 


In conclusion, the shift from traditional celebrities to influencers at events like the Cannes Film Festival highlights the evolving landscape of fame and influence. This transition offers brands an opportunity to tap into the digital world’s vast potential, fostering engagement and authenticity in their marketing strategies. By embracing this change, brands can effectively leverage influencers' reach and relatability to enhance their global presence and connect with a diverse audience.