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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Lions Health 2018 Takeaways

Written by: | | Dated: Thursday, August 9th, 2018


Lions Health is a dedicated two-day event held annually within Cannes Lions in France. Lions Health is billed as the only place in the world to experience talks from leading pharmaceutical, healthcare, wellness, biotechnology and medical marketing practitioners. Event management says Lions Health is built to deliver the insights, ideas, tools and techniques that lead to life-changing outcomes.

The fifth annual Lions Health event took place on June 18-19 along the French Riviera. The FCB Health Network was named “Healthcare Network of the Year.” This accolade is presented annually and honors the “healthcare network that obtains the most points” in award wins and shortlist entries across the Pharma and Health & Wellness categories at Lions Health.

Havas Lynx Manchester was the Cannes Lions’ Healthcare Agency of the Year recipient. That team also was bestowed with two Silver Lions and a Bronze Lions in Pharma.

TBWA\India was awarded the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity for ‘Blink to Speak’, which is believed to be the first eye language guide made in India to help the paralyzed interact without speech. The guide was created for the non-profit organization Asha Ek Hope Foundation and NeuroGen Brain and Spine Institute, after several months of research with physicians, patients and caregivers to ensure the guide would make a real difference to those people’s lives who are struggling with speech

The following passages represent perspectives on a variety of topics from some of the industry personnel who attended the 2018 events in Cannes …


The Return Of Big Pharma

Rich Levy
FCB Health Network
Cannes Lions Pharma Jury President 2018

After five years, big pharmaceutical companies finally had their coming-out party at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. And for those of you not used to seeing those words – “pharmaceutical companies” and “creativity” – in the same sentence, you better get used to it because I think this is just the beginning of great things.

This year, 15 of the world’s top Big Pharma companies were represented on the shortlist and with gold, silver and bronze Lions. Companies like Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer, Roche, Bayer, Takeda, Lilly and many more. This was also the year we saw numerous shortlisted works, and Lions being awarded to HCP branded campaigns. Yes, you’re reading that correctly: the work that we do every single day of the week – branded work to HCPs – was awarded many of the top awards this year.

What was different this year than from other years? What happened to allow this work to be recognized? What can we learn moving forward to 2019 and 2020? I think there were three trends that made this year’s work stand out – and will help future entries moving forward:

1) Big Pharma work had incredible craft. If you look at this year’s Pharma shortlist, over 80% of the entries were in Craft categories. If your entry didn’t have incredible craft, it didn’t even get consideration for a shortlist or a Lion. We saw great photography, cinematography, illustration and art direction. But in the jury room, we also saw countless touching and emotional films that made us stop and think. And none of them made the shortlist. The issue – they all looked exactly the same and had very ordinary craft. In fact, there were jury members who pointed out that most were shot in black & white. All liberally used B-roll footage to heighten the drama. Most had at least 25% of the shots in slow motion. All you needed to do was insert rare disease and engaging patient and you had yourself a Cannes entry. There was one entry I specifically remember that had an incredible insight and was well done. But it was shot so poorly, and entered by a giant pharma company, that we couldn’t get over the lack of craft. We thought the giant company should have aspired to better.

2) Integrated ideas will always stand out – if all the components are equally great. This year we saw a lot of campaigns with components in multiple media. The problem was that very few of them were great in every medium. Just because you run a campaign in print and broadcast and in-office and social does not necessarily make it an integrated campaign. In the jury room, we look at each piece and they all have to be great. There was an MS campaign that I remember had an excellent social element, but the rest of the campaign was just OK. And even though the campaign was entered in 15 categories, including social, by the time we finished looking at all the entries, the rest of the campaign actually hurt the social entry. The jury had decided that this campaign wasn’t good enough. Which was a shame – because one piece was really good. But that’s also another learning for the future. Don’t over enter a campaign. Remember that the same jury judges EVERY category in Lions Health. Therefore, by the time you’ve watched the same case film for the 10th, 15th, or 20th time, you’re actually tired of looking at it. Please, please, please – in the future – enter a campaign no more than 5 times. The most awarded campaigns this year were entered 3 to 5 times. Everything entered more than 10 times did not get shortlisted.

3) The new Pharma categories really helped separate pharma from non-pharma work. I don’t think we can underestimate the effect the new categories had on the entry process. No longer were the same entries in both Pharma and Health & Wellness. We had very little debate about whether a specific entry belonged in our jury room. (With one notable exception – we actually recommended an entry move from our jury to the H&W jury. When the agency declined, we had no choice but to vote with our hearts. 12 entries – 0 shortlists.) I believe that in the future, understanding which category to enter your work in will be the greatest predictor of success. Spend time considering what your campaign really is all about. Is your campaign at its heart an online video? Is it a social post? Is it a broadcast campaign? All of these examples are different categories. And yet, as a jury, all are viewed differently. Where and how you enter will dictate your success or failure.

This was a transformative year in Cannes. We can finally put to rest that “Big Pharma can’t win.” We can finally stop talking about how the regulations in the USA make it impossible for US agencies to win. And we can finally stop apologizing for working in healthcare advertising. Because as this year’s Cannes winner proved, the work that we’re doing can be both lifesaving and creative. And for that, I’m very proud.


Actions Speak Louder

Dana Panzone
Associate Creative Director
FCB Health, an FCB Health Network Company

“Brands have more power than they know. Every moment, no matter how dark, is an opportunity for change, light and growth.”

Of all the great quotes from the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, these words from Grey’s Anatomy actress Ellen Pompeo have stuck with me the most since my return.

In light of such issues as data privacy breaches and fake news hurting the credibility of marketers, Pompeo’s views on brands needing to stand for something and take action for humanity were echoed by several other speakers at this year’s Festival. It also showed in a lot of the work.

The ALS Association’s “Project Revoice” campaign, an initiative that helps give people with ALS a chance to have their voices back, earned the Grand Prix for Good and a standing ovation at the award show.

Bodyform & Libresse’s “Blood Normal” campaign, which boldly aims to destigmatize and normalize women’s periods by depicting real menstrual blood in their ads, won the Glass Lion for Change Grand Prix.

Savlon’s “Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks” campaign put children’s hand hygiene first in India with their simple yet brilliant creation of chalk infused with soap-like cleansers and was awarded the Effectiveness Grand Prix.

NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and Asha Ek Hope’s “Blink to Speak” campaign created an entirely new language to help people with paralysis communicate and received the Health Grand Prix for Good.

Keep in mind, of course, that all of the aforementioned campaigns won awards in other categories as well. This shows that creativity for the greater good has no boundaries – not even when it comes to pharma.

And speaking of pharma and proving that great work is possible even in a highly regulated industry, 16 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies in the world were shortlisted this year.

Now that we’ve gained momentum, let’s keep pushing forward.

Let’s keep fighting the good fight.

Let’s act with a strong moral fiber in these unstable times.

Let’s keep making a difference in people’s lives.

It’s not only a huge opportunity for us in this industry, but also our responsibility and reason for doing what we do.


My Humble Dose Of Cannes Medicine – 2 Truths And A Lie About Cannes

Kate Kuchar
Associate Creative Director
FCB Cure, an FCB Health Network company

Healthcare advertising is average, at best. Or so that’s what the advertising world would want you to believe. I, too, used to be ignorant and thought this shallow.

I’ll never forget the day I told my professor that I absolutely refused to concept around “big pharma” as an assignment. I simply couldn’t rationalize the purpose. It felt like cheating to work on a campaign for a drug company, because disease states are inherently emotional and, therefore, coming up with an idea would be “easy.” I fundamentally disagreed with her in my head, until I finally got up the nerve to share out loud in class. I raised my hand and spelled out a laundry list of reasons for why it’s propaganda that sells medications to people who may not need them. I made her believe that this was a silly homework assignment, and I truly believed that a small part of my soul would be shattered if I were forced to turn in this assignment the following week. Dramatically, I said my piece. It didn’t take long before a band of followers who felt as strongly as I did started to chime in and fought her on the homework. Some, I’m sure, just to get out of doing homework. “Pick your own brand and create a compelling concept, and you can forget about the pharma piece,” said my professor. And so, I did. I left class that day feeling dignified. I sketched and reworked my thoughts, and after a week’s worth of masterfully tinkering with type and images, I had nailed my idea.

Proudly, I returned to room 303-B the following Wednesday with my brilliant work. One by one, my classmates walked the class through their ideas. One of the “rebels” got up to reveal his work and, to my disgust, I discovered that he had changed his mind and gone back to the original assignment: his ideas focused on healing; the art he created felt humanistic; he talked about helping others. Next, another ex-tribe-mate presented an idea for sleeping meds, because the lack of sleep is a danger to society.

I held my breath and then revealed my big idea: light and airy, illustrative and delicate; sweet hand-drawn characters hung from Jet-Puffed marshmallows, and I wrote some crappy headline about floating up and away on a perfect day. I pinned the ad to the wall and stepped into the semi-circle, waiting for feedback. Nice, they said. The art was cool, they said.

I stood there reflecting on the ads pinned to the wall and heard nothing but the thoughts running through my head. By the time we got back to our desks, it hit me as if I had tripped going up steps: I had chosen to craft an ad for a sugar-based confection. Suddenly, my brilliant idea felt meaningless and empty.

Years later, I would find myself with an invitation to attend one of the most drool-worthy festivals for creatives worldwide: Cannes Lions. People from all over the world strolled the waterfront, united by the familiar Lions badge hanging from their necks. The buzz of the festival was everywhere; I might even go so far as to say it was atomic. A dear friend of mine – a copywriter – was lucky enough to also be invited. Walking side by side, we took it all in. We found our way to the healthcare area and wandered about.

The aisles were lined with short-listed campaign entries. We paused in front of each one and soaked in as much as we could. Some campaigns were deeply emotional and striking. Others found ways to use humor to get their messages across. And a select few were downright moving, yet sophisticated and simple. That feeling of “I wish I had thought of that” was undeniable. That evening, we attended the Cannes Lions Health Awards show. The lights dimmed, the audience erupted with cheers and it was game on to see who would take home the Gold. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the irony of it all. As true as gravity, there I was, reconnected with an old friend and colleague from the network, in France, admiring the work of “pharma” advertising and beaming with pride to be a part of it.

I was woke. Agencies aren’t just hired hands to push Big Pharma. We create campaigns that can change the way people get care and are treated. That eccentric professor of mine, who had loved to dance and encouraged us all to eat breakfast each day, and who had cared about us as if we were her own kids had it right. Her lesson wasn’t about creating ads, but rather this: Choose to work on assignments that will make a difference in people’s lives, and you will always have a purpose.


Forever Changed

Ashley Richards
FCB Health Network

Have you ever realized, in the very second you’re in, that this moment would change you forever? I have – at every point during my Cannes experience.

As a college student, Cannes was seen more as an end goal of a successful career. As an FCB Health employee, Cannes was an open opportunity for anyone deserving. As a mid-level copywriter, I was able to join forces with VPs, strategic managers and supervisors – all who had their own success stories as to why they were invited to the festival. We arrived as unfamiliar coworkers, and left as a united team.

That’s the thing – everyone at Cannes was successful in their own way. So much so that at times it could feel intimidating. But year after year, people come back for more awards, events, speeches and panels. Perhaps that’s what makes them so successful; they’re always enthusiastic to learn more.

After finally coming down from my travel anxiety, I sat back and asked myself, “How do I make the most out of my 72 hours here?” I chugged an espresso (or three) and filled a piece of paper with my do-not-miss speakers and events, times and locations, and everything in between.

The first on my list was “Speaking to Cancer,” led by Tyler Dickson, Group Strategic Planning Director, with Amy Meadows, Eli Lilly and Company consumer marketing senior advisor. The stage’s large screen projected: “Get uncomfortable about talking about cancer.” Isn’t everyone uncomfortable talking about it? Well, that’s the point.

Tyler and Amy took us through the strategic thinking behind creating ads for people who are dying. Bluntly said, these people don’t have much time left – but they spent their last breaths in market research anyway, in hopes of helping create a better tomorrow. Time is valuable, especially when your time is limited. This insight fueled one of the most beautiful, inspiring campaigns I have seen to date. I wiped the tears from my face and – for the first time – felt hopeful for the future of oncology.

Another must-see on my list was “Prescribed High,” presented by Virtue, the agency born from Vice. Krishna Andavolu, host and executive producer of Viceland’s Weediquette, and Madeline Donegan, head of media at Weedmaps, opened up the panel by discussing the current state of medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is one of the most controversial subjects I have ever witnessed. Opposing viewpoints are debated between generations, demographics and, most important, the government. How do you advertise, persuade and influence a drug that is illegal in a large portion of the United States?

They challenged us, as creators, on how we will one day advertise medical marijuana. I left the panel crafting future campaigns in my head. I hope in my lifetime I will have the opportunity to work on the ideas inspired by this panel.

At the end of day one, the FCB Network went off to the Cannes Lion Health Awards Show. I even got to sit next to Gold and Silver Lion winners. As much as I wanted to hate them for coming up with some of the most breathtaking work I have seen, I looked up to them in awe, one-by-one as they accepted their award on stage.

Little did I know, I too, would be joining them to help accept the final award: Healthcare Network of the Year award. I put my arms around coworkers, who just earlier were strangers, soaking in everything around me from my new perspective. Remember my opening question? Yeah…this was one of those moments that would change me forever. Attending Cannes wasn’t an end goal; this was simply a new start to my career.


Redefining The Meaning Of Victory

Bruno Abner
Creative Director
McCann Health Brazil
Health & Wellness Jury Member, 2018 Cannes Lions Health

I have been closely following the evolution of Cannes Lions Health since its creation, in 2014. Four years later, I had the unbelievable privilege to be part of the Health & Wellness jury, comprised of 10 professionals from around the world and, to be the only representative from Latin America.

It goes without saying that this experience radically changed my perception of what it takes to have a winning piece of work in the competition. And this assertion would be pretty obvious, if it weren’t for the fact that my own concept of winning has changed as well. To be honest, it would’ve been more surprising to come out of this process exactly the way I went into it, considering the overwhelming set of information and insights it provided: I was exposed to 1,301 pieces of work from all over the world, over a wide range of topics.

Having the opportunity to view this incredible body of work led me to the following conclusions: a) people around the world are facing more serious illnesses than we thought and B) as communications professionals, we have an even more fundamental role to play than what I considered before.

As a jury, we looked for the most creative, unique, responsible pieces of work, capable of taking the Health & Wellness category to another level. However, I felt we could go beyond that.

After diving into such an absurd amount of case studies, I realized that my jury partners and I had adopted even higher criteria, transcending the question of talent, discourse and craft. What stood out above all else, was the impact that creativity in Health can have in helping people to live more meaningful lives. And realizing that, made us feel even more privileged to be able to do what we do in our professional lives.

Winning in Cannes can have many different meanings for a communications professional: recognition and respect from your peers and the industry, a trophy that will make your agency, your client and your family proud of you, professional visibility, salary rise, more autonomy etc…

But when it comes to winning a Health Lion, all ideas have a common denominator: to educate and increase people’s access to information about health, which, at the end of the day, has the ultimate objective of saving lives and helping people achieve a better quality of life. A profound realization and sense of purpose that shines way more than a Gold, a Silver or a Bronze. Which all of us in the healthcare communications industry, know way better than anyone else.


Cannes’ ‘See It Be It’ Helps Empower Female Creatives

Meghan Patenaude
Art Supervisor
McCann Health New York

Gold. It’s not just the color of the coveted lion. It is a standard that holds the highest prestige. Something put in place to change a broken system and never look back. This is what the ‘See It Be It’ program at the Cannes Lions festival is working to create in the advertising industry.

‘See It Be It’ is a career development and acceleration program for women in the creative communications industry who face diversity challenges and want to lead the way for change.

The ‘See It Be It’ program chooses 20 women from all corners of the globe to come together and participate in this program at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. I had the incredible honor of being chosen to participate this year and I can say with certainty that the program was nothing less than life changing. The program ambassador this year, Chloe Gottlieb (CCO of R/GA), created a supportive and nurturing environment to learn about what it takes to be a leader under the theme of ‘leading from within.’

In 4 days at Cannes we participated in specialty workshops, sat in on jury room discussions, spoke with multiple industry leaders, and most importantly learned from each other and the different challenges women face in different markets around the world.

At the core of this group was support. Support for one another, support for great work, and support toward a mutual goal of changing the industry we all love into an industry that represents the diversity we see and value in each other and in our audiences.

The ‘See It Be It’ program is not just important but essential for the communications industry.

As a healthcare advertising industry professional, I believe that healthcare advertising has a unique opportunity to take the lead on the conversation of diversity. After all, disease does not discriminate. Not cancer, not diabetes, not heart disease. We all know life and death and we all experience it regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or cultural background. What better place could there be to initiate efforts towards inclusion in communication and leadership?

Coming out of this program my goal and challenge to myself and my fellow colleagues is to follow the example of ‘See It Be It’ and make inclusion the new Gold Standard of our industry one campaign, one mentee, one new hire, and one promotion at a time. This is the path to truly meaningful work that will change lives.


Three Highlights From This Year’s Cannes Health & Wellness Lions Awards

Collette Douaihy
Executive Vice President, Executive Creative Director
Digitas Health
Health & Wellness Judge, Cannes Lions 2018

The Grand Prix Winner – an emotional campaign advocating organ donation – is a powerful campaign from which we all can draw inspiration.

I was extremely impressed with the Corazón, Give Your Heart campaign. A beautifully integrated campaign that fuses health and wellness into our everyday lives, it included a feature film based on a patient’s life experience that seamlessly tells the brand’s story while sparking an emotional response from viewers. The campaign was extremely effective in raising awareness – not an easy task – especially when it comes to organ donation. It made people feel something, and then made it easy for them to become part of the solution. It is a powerful campaign from which to draw inspiration.

Suicide is indeed a world problem, and it was encouraging to see campaigns that boldly and graciously seek to address the issue.

The work I saw for suicide prevention and awareness was powerful and touching. Across the work, the number of people, young and old, taking their own lives astonished me. Work like Project 84, a live installation in the U.K. represented the alarming statistics of male suicide, is a poignant reminder of a real life lost, and a call to society to come together and take a stand against suicide. This work, combined with the recent very sad news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, will ignite concern and much needed attention.

Great art and simple ideas are helping to improve so many lives.

I’m always in awe of innovative creative for the greater good; I saw many simple ideas that are impactful and helping to improve so many lives. The I RESCUE campaign created playful eye masks for children that were fun to use and became an effective screening tool for Amblyopia or Lazy Eye. Equally impressive was Habitat for Humanity’s Dissolving Posters that prevent mosquito larva from breeding in Brazil.


Cannes Health Lions – Where Do We Go From Here?

Andrew Schirmer
Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide

I’ll get the bad pun out of the way quickly: for me, the jury is still out on the Cannes Health Lions awards show.

In June, I was fortunate to have been able to attend the show for the fifth consecutive year, and so I have participated in this event since its inception. I won’t deny that it is an amazing spectacle located in a truly glorious surrounding where you get to mingle with a broad array of advertising, marketing and media folks. And you do have the chance to see some cutting-edge innovation and very strong work. But it can also be both overwhelming and frustrating as there is so much going on simultaneously, the Health show is sectioned off from the rest of the festival, and many of the actual sessions overlap each other.

For those lucky attendees who were able to secure a full pass for the entire Cannes Lions festival, there was a massive amount of content, numerous sessions, and an abundance of inspiration from the “main” show through the entire week. But for those of us who had the two-day Health Lions pass, we were limited to the area of the Palais de Festivals that held only the health sessions. I heard rumblings from a number of attendees who headed over to the main theater to see David Droga kick off the larger festival on Monday morning but were turned away as they had Health-only passes.

Once the Health Lions show got underway, though, there were some great talks, including an excellent presentation regarding how GSK Consumer Healthcare has transformed the way they speak to their customers and has moved from simply defining efficacy to showing empathy, and ultimately, to building trust. There were a couple of interesting sessions that showed how behavioral science is helping to solve significant health problems. And one of the more intriguing presentations defined the rapidly growing use of health bots, and how this technology may be the most logical solution to getting important health information to consumers on their terms, on their preferred platform, via an interface that uses artificial intelligence and a human-like bot to engage.

Over the course of the two days, there was ample opportunity to review the short-listed work, and while there were some great examples of creativity, it seemed that there were also a lot of entries that would be better categorized as health interventions (devices, products, tools, technology, etc.) rather than creative campaigns, marketing or advertising. As the majority of those submitting to the show are advertising and communication practitioners and agencies, one does wonder if the general description of what makes it into each of the categories needs to be refined further. At the same time, the new category format was indeed an improvement over years past.

The awards show gala is always a nice event as it really does allow those of us who work in the ad/comms business to feel celebrated for the significant and challenging work we do on behalf of our clients, their brands, and most importantly, their customers and consumers. We get to see our friends, competitors, and colleagues acknowledged for work that stands apart from the rest and ultimately spurs all of us to push ourselves and our own work further. But we also saw a lot less of all of these folks this year, as it was clear that all of the agency networks and independents cut back on both attendees and sponsored events. This was in keeping with the overall effort of the Cannes Lions Festival leaders to taper back a bit of the excess and expense of prior years. You have to wonder, though – will that decrease in attendance continue? And is that ok?

The Cannes Lions still stands as THE creative showcase for the industry and will continue to inspire tens of thousands of attendees in the coming years. At the same time, I would encourage the festival directors to seek out opinions and ideas for how to do a better job of integrating the Health show with the main festival. And, I would recommend they make it more relevant to the bulk of the actual produced work that is powering the healthcare industry and place a stronger emphasis on recognizing creativity within marketing, advertising and communications.


Cannes Health Lions – You Never Forget Your First Time

Brenda Molloy
VP, Creative Director
Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide

There has been a lot of ongoing commentary since last year’s Cannes Lions Health, including some discussion and frustration centered around the need for regulated and non-regulated Pharma, and even over the rightful place of Pharma within the festival. Would the overall turnout be less this year? Would this year’s festival be better? Would it be worth the trip?

This was my first year attending Cannes, so I can’t make any comparisons, but I can say this – it was definitely worth the trip. And not just because it’s the South of France, where the rosé truly does flow like water, though I’d have to say it didn’t hurt. Being surrounded by so much work from an industry that has been my livelihood, and one that I’m proud to be part of, would have been inspiration enough. But I also had the chance to listen to speakers, some of whom I’ve only had the opportunity to admire from afar until now, talk about the latest use of insights and data and how that information is being used to help save lives. Not to mention the opportunity to network with incredibly talented people from around the world. As far as the actual work goes, yes, there were definite pieces that stood out from the others, but no matter, I can’t help but bow at the altar of all the creatives who were able to get their work into Cannes in the first place. For this is where we all aspire to be.

Designating the regulated and non-regulated work was a definite plus, too. It made me less frustrated and a tad less jealous when I was comparing the winners. And even though Disease Awareness will always have a bit more freedom of expression compared to the branded, regulated work, one thing that united it all was the incredible craft that went into each of the top campaigns this year.

There were some great highlights. The Stiolto-COPD Disease Awareness campaign was brought to life in a harsh, unapologetic way about smokers and their disease. Everything was shot on set. No CGI. Pretty impressive. Conversely, the Elanco DTC campaign and Mundipharma HCP campaign both had incredible, even awe-inspiring CGI executions. That said, the campaign that stood out the most for me was actually the simplest in its execution. It was the most creative. Most life-changing. And the one that everyone was talking about: Blink to Speak, which appropriately won the Gold Lion. Blind to Speak showcased a new eye language that was created to help provide people with paralysis a way to communicate. Brilliant concept, impressive strategy, and a life-changing solution for these patients. And the campaign was both beautifully designed and executed.

I was also inspired by what seemed to be a common theme both inside and outside of the Palais: the indispensable need for our work to not just be highly creative, but unquestionably authentic. We are living in a climate that demands increasing transparency, and our audiences are placing more value in brand trust than they ever have before. So, as we continue to find and use innovative ways to access and leverage data – which, as marketers, can be very exciting and maybe a little daunting – we must also not forget our responsibility to the people whose lives we want to make better.


Who Do I Think I Am?

Lottie Walter
Account Director
TBWA\WorldHealth London

I’m at the entrance of the Palais de festival; it’s hot enough to vaporize lead.
Only the night before I was preparing for another standard Monday in the office (‘standard’ meaning very busy disrupting health… hi boss!).

Instead here I was, Lions Health ticket in hand, trying to hide my grin of giddy excitement as an Account Director who’s lucked out and found herself in the mecca of creativity.

Those incredible few days confirmed just how much I love this industry.


Number 1: Brain-exploding talks

Like most Cannes Lions newbies, I ran around in a frenzied fashion trying to attend as many talks as possible. My head hurts just remembering them – sans rosé.

The one that hit home most was Joel Beckerman’s talk about sound as a design principle.

The whole idea was based around how people’s emotional response to sound is strongly correlated with a desire to engage or avoid an experience. Joel asked everyone to close their eyes while the familiar sound of the inside of a hospital setting was played – the beeping monitors, the hum of background machines, the high pitched yet quiet alarms. It made me feel uncomfortable in an instant. He then played the scene again, this time replacing the sounds with alternatives – just as attention-grabbing, but more calm and subdued.

It was an interesting take on solving issues such as alarm fatigue for caregivers, and also beautifully illustrated how massive an impact sound has on our emotions. And how we in this healthcare world have the power to not just make impactful brands, but to use this knowledge to really change experiences in everyday realities. My notebook after the meeting was full of overly excited scrawls about sound-steered AR for patients, product development considerations, putting sound first in creative plans, and loads more unreadable ciphers, scribbled as I sprinted to the next talk.

Number 2: The awards made me, quite simply, proud.

I’ll be honest, the red-carpet extravaganza of the Monday night didn’t blow my flip flops off.

The whirlwind program left me feeling exhausted and slightly brain dead. C’est la vie.

But my geeky habits took me to all the award debates and jury tours the next day and forced me to spend time absorbing each award film in full. And I left feeling nothing short of amazed.

What became clear is that everyone is inspired by a different aspect of creative work in this field – be it beautiful photography, mind-blowing creative strategy, or genuinely impactful results. But the one underlying judgment appears to be if it really makes a difference: if the work showcases how incredible this industry can be… if it really gets into the heart of the audience and pushes behavior change. Which, in this world of healthcare, is huge.

The piece that really struck a chord with me was the J&J ‘Stay-free’ campaign. J&J lived up to its brand ambition for its sanitary pad line – to be free – by helping sex workers in India to learn skills on their ‘days off’ during their period. I felt that this showed what truly wonderful and clever ideas can stem from getting close to society and really understanding people. It normalized the lives of sex workers, destigmatized a part of society, while staying true to a genuine brand promise. And it left me feeling humbled by what can be achieved.

Number 3: Partnership not service

This realization wasn’t a talk or an award or an event or a connection made on the Croissette. Just a continual reminder of how much can be achieved through strong partnerships.

The three days in Cannes showed case after case of brands that have fought into new territories with their agencies, creative teams who collaborated globally to find new solutions, and cross-functional approaches to problems from different disciplines combining together to form awe-inspiring outcomes.

My favorite moment was the Head of Digital Marketing and Media at Phillips publicly thanked his agency for their partnership during his talk.

Now that’s my mission for next year – to be thanked by a client in a Cannes talk.

So, who do I think I am?

Clearly the luckiest Account Director around. And, more importantly, one who loves the power of creativity in healthcare. I might not have the word creative in my job title, but that doesn’t stop me being a part of making it all happen, being responsible for using it to make a real difference, and continually aspiring to push the boundaries on what it can achieve.

So come say hi next year, as I fully intend to make this an annual trip now.


A Festival Growing Up

Todd Henwood
Executive VP, Creative Director
GSW-Canada, a Syneos Health company

I was in Cannes in 2014 when Lions Health originally launched. That is, I arrived on Sunday as it was winding down. However, the work was still on display so I made a point of checking out every piece the newly minted festival had to offer. Brave ideas, manipulation of technology, envious craft, and a representation of what’s possible within a regulated environment. It established a stage for the future of life-changing creativity. And it’s what eventually inspired me to jump into healthcare advertising with no reason to look back.

Lions Health was touted as a “festival within a festival” – however, it happened before the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity even started. The consumer side of the business didn’t know anything about it or even why it existed. And the advertising community at large doubted it could survive without “Cannes-worthy” levels of creativity (no Grand Prix awarded in Pharma).

Skip ahead to 2018 where the work in Lions Health is some of the most exciting in the festival and the envy of many agency networks. I returned to Cannes Lions this year as a delegate of Lions Health, and I was more excited than ever at the chance to be inspired, surprised, and maybe even a little star struck. Lions Health is truly a festival within a festival and now takes place during the first two days of the five-day Cannes Lions Festival.

The award-winning work was better than ever thanks to the rock star juries who deliberated for days. The talks were more inspiring and featured top-tier marketers from the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies. And the festival itself felt a shade more mature, being surrounded by the excitement of the global creative community.

My attention was immediately commanded by the “Behind the Work” stage, where brave clients and their agencies together presented case studies showing the rest of us what it means to have a partnership based on unwavering trust.

Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and their creative agency Cossette showed us how they evolved a charity platform into a performance brand with a stronger recall than Gatorade. The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and California-based agency RPA showed us how their trusted relationship created The Imaginary Friends Society (a conviction of craft with 22 animated films from 22 animation studios) and helped kids deal with the truths of cancer treatment. And the National Safety Council, along with Energy BBDO, blew our minds with their memorial to raise awareness of prescription opioid overdose titled Stop Everyday Killers.

What I ultimately took away from this stage and these presentations – beyond a bit of envy and a head full of inspiration – was that the creative community is alive and well within the halls of Lions Health. What was originally seen as a festival of regulations and stifled creativity is now a field of possibility that is producing work clients are asking for and agencies from all corners are fighting to get in. The creative is strong and the doors are open, and now it’s just that Grand Prix for Pharma?


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