The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity’s 2019 Health Track consisting of the Pharma Lions and Health & Wellness Lions occurred in June along the scenic French Riviera.

GlaxoSmithKline’s “Breath of Life” campaign captured the Cannes Pharma Grand Prix, marking the first time in three years that the event’s leading recognition was awarded. McCann Health Shanghai was the healthcare communications agency behind GSK’s COPD disease awareness campaign. In addition, “Breath of Life” was awarded a Gold Lion.
McCann Health Shanghai was additionally recognized as 2019 Agency of the Year, while McCann Health was awarded the 2019 Healthcare Network of the Year honor at Cannes.

AREA 23, an FCB Health Network company, won one gold, one silver and one bronze Pharma Lion for “One Word” and “Get Up Alarm Clock.” New York-based agency AREA 23 developed the “One Word” campaign for the Constant Therapy stroke-recovery app for client The Learning Corp. For Eli Lilly, AREA 23 built the world’s first social media alarm clock, projecting messages of strength onto patients’ ceiling to help them not just wake up but get up.

“I’m so proud of these campaigns and the teams that put in the blood, sweat and tears to bring them to life,” says Tim Hawkey, chief creative officer of AREA 23. “While we’re beyond thrilled to bring home some gold hardware, Lilly’s ‘Get Up Alarm Clock’ and the ‘Constant Therapy’ app have helped people live better, healthier lives – the ultimate reward for our hard work. We are so, so grateful for our brave clients, who can see past many of our self-imposed pharma boundaries and embrace the need for breakthrough creativity and innovation in healthcare marketing.”

According to Rich Levy, chief creative officer at Klick Health, “I was personally inspired by several pieces. I was especially taken by the brilliance of the idea behind ‘Breath of Life’ from GSK and McCann Health Shanghai and ‘One Word’ for The Learning Corp. from AREA 23. (In full disclosure, until joining Klick Health a few months ago, I worked for the parent company of AREA 23). Both ideas are great ideas and beautifully executed.”

Robin Shapiro, global president of TBWA\WorldHealth, headed the 2019 Pharma Lions jury. The Pharma Lions jury also consisted of Adam Weiss, managing director/creative director, CDM Japan; Andrew Spurgeon, executive creative director, Langland UK; Bianca Eichner, VP and general manager, WE Communications Germany; Emily Spilko, executive creative director, Evoke USA; Kathleen Nanda, executive VP and group creative director, FCB Health USA; Laura Florence, executive creative director, Havas Health & You Brazil; Nanda Marth, executive creative director, Sudler UK; Praful Akali, founder and managing director, Medulla Communications India; and Xavier Sánchez, founding Partner and global chief creative officer, The Bloc Partners/Umbilical Global.

Shaheed Peera, executive creative director of Publicis LifeBrands, helmed the 2019 Health & Wellness Lions as jury president. The other jury members were Augé Reichenberg, EVP and chief creative officer, Havas Health U.S.; Bernardo Romero, executive creative director, Healthcare & Wellness, Grey U.S.; Berta Loran, creative director, Global Healthcare, Spain; Carlos André Eyer, creative VP, NBS, Brazil; Christian Geis, digital creative director, Wefra, Germany; Geet Rathi, creative and design director, TBWA\India; Matt Eastwood, global chief creative officer, McCann Health, global; Phyllis Cheng, VP of healthcare, FleishmanHillard, Singapore; Sinead Murphy, creative director, Syneos Health U.K.; and Toby Pickford, chief creative officer, Ogilvy Health, Australia.

The following passages represent perspectives on a variety of topics from some of the industry personnel who attended Lions Health 2019 …


The Creative Health Revolution

Shaheed Peera
Executive Creative Director
Publicis LifeBrands, Publicis Resolute and Real Science (PLBRS)
President, 2019 Health & Wellness Jury, Cannes Lions Health

When I first came into pharma advertising almost a decade ago, the work that the industry was creating and awarding at the time felt like an alternative universe compared to general market creative. Back then, there was a dearth of strategy, media, craft and great ideas in health advertising. It didn’t make much sense to me, as the products were amazing and changed lives. Not in the way that Coca-Cola can make someone happy; we are talking about treatments that save lives. Really amazing!

Shaheed Peera

Another observation that I made was that no one ever wanted to admit they worked in health. The ultimate goal was to get into consumer agencies and erode any memory of working on pharmaceutical brands.

What I believed in back then – and still believe now – is that if our industry can demonstrate great work, it can inspire the best creative talent to join our ranks and make healthcare communications the number one place for creativity.

Proof of the creative health revolution was apparent as I had the pleasure and privilege to serve as President of this year’s Health & Wellness jury at Cannes Lions Health. My mum was very proud, and to be fair, I also was a bit chuffed to be the youngest and first British Asian to hold the position.

The rise of health and wellness award shows has shone a spotlight on our industry and has started to help showcase the value of what we do and the societal benefits we can create for brands who are brave enough to think and act differently. When Burger King and IKEA enter a health and wellness advertising award show, you know that health is becoming part of everyone’s business.

Healthcare communications has always been a bit like Hogwarts. Invisible to most people, massive when you get there, and filled with magic you haven’t yet discovered. There is a creative revolution in healthcare right now. Our documentary hasn’t been made yet and there’s never been a more important time to star in it. The industry is ready and waiting for new ideas, more diversity and talent. So, who’s in?


Creative Crossroads

Annie Heckenberger
VP, Group Creative Director
Digitas Health

No Fearless Girl. Not even #LikeAGirl. No Stratos space jump. No Fuelband. The work that rose to the top of the celebrated at Cannes this year – was largely unremarkable.

Annie Heckenberger

The most interesting work this year – work that I kept coming back to day after day in the lower level of the Palais displaying “The Work” – was creative steeped in cultural relevancy and truth that struck an emotional chord.

For an industry that champions innovation, innovation was in spare supply. Ditto for humor. Shortlisted and awarded campaign creative was anchored to big, weighty issues of varying social importance and the word “Purpose” seemed to drip off tongues up and down the Croisette.

Of course, there were some standouts – IKEA’s ThisAbles campaign struck a much-needed chord for an underserved audience, and The New York Times “The Truth Is Worth It” was another creative campaign that made audiences feel and remember the urgency of their message through exceptional storytelling.

Overwhelmingly, there was a feeling of creative repose in Cannes this year. And in many ways, that made sense. Our business, and how we do business, is amid tremendous change. Theorists and strategists have spent the last few years proselytizing the importance of behavior modeling in marketing, influence has waned from established institutions and risen to the left and the right with the nano-influencer next door and content creators slaying new formats, while data-driven campaigns have become a mandate. Inspiration and creativity, once the leaders, now seem to be trying to catch up.

The good news is that opportunity is within reach for creatives. Technology continues to advance faster than I can type, and the creative opportunities offered by AI or building on established platform APIs to the creatively curious are meaty. Healthcare is top of mind and on the tip of tongues. It’s the topic of town hall discussions, fueling movements and marches across the U.S. and around the world. Perhaps more than any time before, we can produce work that matters for this industry.

That feeling of a creative lull at Cannes this year excited me. Just as a pride of Lions lays in wait before pouncing, the world is ready for inspired creative disruption that means something.


The Only Way Out of the Lion’s Den Is Through

Scott Carlton
Creative Director
Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, New York

Being asked by the Cannes Lions Innovation Jury to present our idea for the mobile app, Deaf 911, was an honor of a lifetime. And to be doing it with Kathy Delaney, chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness and Publicis Health, made it all the more mind-blowing.

Scott Carlton

But in all honesty, the thought of it was numbing. The presentation is, after all, live. That means, on-stage, in-person, in-the-flesh, to the shark tank of creativity. The Lion’s Den.

Entered in just one category, Early Stage Innovation, Deaf 911 was one of the 25 projects shortlisted by the Innovation Jury this year. And because the app was in early stages of prototype development, we had a detailed yet limited demo to share with the jury.

That thought and others are what triggered the many questions going off in my head. Does the jury expect a full demonstration? How will it stack up to the fierce competition? What challenges would the jury pose?

The reality is that the project has been a passion of a team involving inspired innovators, problem solvers and communicators for well over a year. Working evenings and weekends, our team was driven to develop a tool for the 38 million deaf and hard-of-hearing people living in the United States in emergency situations.

Currently, the deaf can connect with 911 by using either call relay services and teletypewriters. But these modes of communication can take up to 10 minutes just to initiate contact with an emergency center dispatcher. And text-to-911 isn’t available nationwide.

In other words, every moment can mean the difference between life and death. The urgency is to reduce the amount of time needed to make initial contact with 911, then identify the type of emergency and confirm the location so a dispatcher can send the appropriate medical or police services to the deaf individual in need of help.

Time was also a concern for our presentation. We had 22 minutes total. Starting with a two-minute case film and ending with a 10-minute Q&A session, we had 10 minutes for the actual presentation.

With simplicity as our guide, we crafted a smart and crystal clear presentation detailing how the combination of text-to-speech and speech-to-text technology can connect the deaf and hard-of-hearing to 911 in just 30 seconds. The application of existing technology to fulfill an unmet need was the basis of our innovation. The rest relied on designing the presentation then rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing. As well as anticipating what tough questions would come from the savvy and oh-so-hungry lions in our jury.

As with any good pitch, you prepare, you create, you rehearse, then go with it. We arrived in the south of France rested, confident and knowing we were on the right course. The Deaf 911 team back in New York posted real-time cheers through our WhatsApp group chat. Even our clients from St. Ann’s Community and Church for the Deaf sent us video prayers. We were not alone.

After a successful tech check on Sunday, we arrived Monday morning at the Palais ready to go. And guess what? A giant column prevented the wireless remote from playing the presentation. Ironically, the Innovation team had chosen the one stage that prevented innovation to be displayed in its best light. Undeterred, we soldiered through until the Cannes technical experts found a workaround.

Then the magic happened. All the passion and love for this assignment came to fruition. The project, the presentation and the purpose were aligned as one. We had arrived.

With wisdom as our reward, we had made it through the presentation with courage and resolve to return home to continue with final development and FCC approval. Determined to deliver Deaf 911, we had learned that providing solutions for millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in emergencies was no monumental feat for those of us who had survived the Lion’s Den.


Up to my eyes in (great) work

Sinéad Murphy
Creative Director
Syneos Health Communications, London
2019 Health & Wellness Lions Jury Member

As a specialist in FOMO, Cannes is my worst nightmare. The sheer number of talks is a little overwhelming. Making it to even one-tenth of them can only be achieved with Olympic-style power walking, while cooling down and hydrating (but simultaneously dehydrating) with a Frozé. What if I pick another thinly veiled agency pitch, rather than the hugely inspiring one everyone else seems to know about? It has happened too often. Though in previous years I did get some spot-on – the astronaut Mike Massimo, who never gave up his dream after failing at every turn (and whom I met later in person, leaving me totally starstruck), the futurist Faith Popcorn, who showed us how “mood morphing” would most likely become very much part of our daily lives by 2028, and the innovators from the Dentsu & Toyota iRoad team, who started with one problem (parking in Tokyo) and created multiple innovations as a response. Every year I intend to plan meticulously so as not to miss out, but invariably a busy work life gets in the way. This year, I hit the good fortune jackpot: I was off to Cannes again, but not as an attendee, as a judge. TGTBT! That meant, for the first part at least, it was all planned for me.

Sinéad Murphy

Rolling into town on a Tuesday pre-festival is an entirely different experience. The particular corner bar that is well-known to any festival attendee was unrecognizably civilized; but further along the Croisette, the building noises battered and drilled on with cranes lifting varying structures, transforming the sleepy set into a series of stages small and large to host our industry’s biggest show of the year. It gave the sense that we, too, were here behind the scenes, part of the cast and crew and about to be put to work.

But for me, it was not unlike arriving on my first day of art college. The idea that I would get to focus solely on creative work for the rest of the week made me a little giddy, and I can honestly say there is no other category I would prefer to judge at the festival than Health and Wellness. Not only do I have the privilege of looking at the world’s greatest health and wellness work of the year, but I also get to do it with some pretty exceptional people. Having met in the lobby on the night of arrival and attended the reception on Carlton Beach with other jury groups, we were told by the festival chair, Philip Thomas, that the most common feedback they receive every year from jurors is that they feel they have made friends for life. Not since summer camp and a random Pilates retreat have I been introduced to a largely unknown group of people and expected to spend so much time in close quarters. So, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt slightly apprehensive, but on the whole pretty excited, about the days ahead.

I was joining a panel packed with award-winning experience and some of the most influential minds in the industry. What their styles are as creative leads, I can’t say. For me, I found the group to be compassionate, intelligent, creative and engaged throughout the process. But it’s healthcare, right? It’s possible that we all have a particularly healthy sense of perspective, resulting in a respectful attitude towards each other and the work we were viewing.

But, on to the judging. It’s safe to say we all know that it’s pretty hard to win at Cannes, and now I know exactly how hard. From the moment we started the prejudging phase on a very slick online portal (4 weeks’ worth), I thought, uh-oh, this is not going to be easy. I was a little worried at one stage that I was being overly impressed with the work, because I wasn’t putting down too many 1-3 (out of a possible 9); but then, fortunately, I hit a rare patch of not-so-hot work and got a baseline. But the overall standard was so very high. Most people know and respect the Cannes standard and, if it’s not anywhere near that, it just won’t be entered. Even then, we had 1,170 entries in our category. When we arrived in the judges’ room on Wednesday, we had a long list of around 300 entries to go through in two days. We were in two groups scoring half the entries, but only on the short list day did we come together and start the discussions.

The benchmark was set on the first day by our jury president Shaheed. The ultimate winners needed to make you feel like, “Wow, I’ve never seen this before,” or, more importantly, “This changes everything!”

As with anything, it’s not a bulletproof system. Some entries, I liked; others, I loved. We all had soft spots. The animal lovers got gooey at the animals, and the writers got gooey at the writing and so on. We had a mix of historical knowledge, taste, understanding of context and cultural nuances, and, of course, instincts. Entries such as “Viva La Vulva” and “Breast Move” created quite a bit of conversation. The loudest, most charismatic or passionate person in the room could move you to think differently, but so could the quietest and calmest with a well-placed statement. We were fully aware that most entries were wearing their Sunday best, but what if you met the idea on a Tuesday? Also, as we discussed later at, the “Inside the Jury Room” panel session, some couldn’t help ourselves and were at times creatively directing the entries. If someone had a way of improving it, it’s not getting gold. All in all, a tough crowd. We had some split decisions, but not many. It was a shared responsibility, thank goodness.

We did get the chance to make a case for one piece each that may not have made the short list. In doing so, you defended it nearly with as much passion as the person who created it, but the task was to move forward in selecting the winners. Eventually, we locked in on a short list of 120 very strong pieces of work.

It was an emotional roller coaster getting to that point. Most got a little teary at some stage. Entries like “5B” and “My last days: Meet Anthony,” did it for quite a few of us. Some entries shocked “Next Minute Law,” “Stop Traffick,” some inspired “Story Sign,” “The Toxic Flag,” some delighted (Tooth Fairy, Pain is Drama). Some were just pure fun (Selfie Stix). It was difficult at times to keep on track and not be swayed by the cause. It was easy to get lost in the stories. Emotion kicks in, but in the end, so does sense. And the winners served both.

The awarding day was intense, charged, but also exciting. It all went so quickly that it left me wondering that if we’d had more time would we have done anything differently. Every adventure must come to an end, however, so we put in our final vote, cheered as a group, then cheered the winners with a glass of bubbly brought in by our fantastic Cannes jury team.


Creativity with a strong conscience

Emily Spilko
Executive Creative Director
2019 Pharma Lions Jury Member

Answer this: If you think about what you did over the last 10 hours or the last 10 days or the last 10 months, can you say with confidence that you truly contributed to work that matters? Work that represents the underrepresented? Work that breaks stigmas? Work that builds bridges to greater empathy and understanding? Work that doesn’t talk at people living with a disease, but speaks to them? Work that values everyone’s well-being?

Emily Spilko

That is the kind of work that won at Cannes Lions 2019 in the pharma category. This year’s work had a strong creative conscience, guided by a moral compass to do right.

It wasn’t technology for technology sake. It wasn’t fluff. It was empathetic. It was inclusive. It was completely in touch with its audience. It was brave. It was emotionally intelligent. And wow, it was so amazing to be a jury member on the front lines of it all, getting to see it first-hand, with a roomful of other jurors from around the world. The entire experience, and especially the work, reaffirmed my desire to work in the pharma space. My career could have taken me to many different places, but I ended up here, where I can make a real impact on the health and wellness of others.

Back to Cannes. Here, a few highlights from the work that medaled in Pharma:

U=U from ViiV Healthcare let us know that “there’s nothing to see here” and people living with HIV are doing just that – living. This work truly broke the stigma that can follow an HIV diagnosis and turned it on its shameful head.

The UFOlogist, brought to the festival by Hermes Pardini Brazil, elevated the importance of truth telling in the face of fake news. This radio spot forced us to think about the sometimes highly controversial vaccination issue through humor, sophistication, and damn good copywriting.

One Word, from the Learning Corp., gave people post-stroke a voice, taking us on a wild ride that showed us just how difficult it can be for them to find the words they need to say.

There was Reverse, from Merck for Mothers, that told us that when it comes to childbirth, we are literally going backwards. It’s a fact, more women die during childbirth today than they did 20 years ago.

As Much as I Can, another effort from ViiV Healthcare, brought a live event into cities where black men are most affected by HIV. These men are ostracized by their communities, their churches, and their families, and this event immersed its audience in those environments in places like Jackson, Mississippi, and Baltimore, Maryland. It brought the audience into the story, giving them more than a front-row seat to the struggle these men endure and persevere through. To see a group take on this topic with such bravery – where it is needed most – was humbling.

And finally, the Pharma Grand Prix, the first Grand Prix awarded after a three-year jury holdout, went to GlaxoSmithKline’s Breath of Life. Over 100 million (yes, million) adults in Shanghai are affected by COPD.

To them, losing their breath is simply part of life, part of getting older. Breath of Life let them know that it may be something more – and something they can treat. This incredible idea put a simple and accessible self-diagnostic tool into the hands of millions. And it did it in a relevant way, blending historical Chinese art and easy-to-use technology. In mere seconds, with a simple breath, the user can see if COPD is a possibility for them – and find out what they can and should do next.

Those are just a few of the highlights from my unforgettable week as a Pharma jury member. There were more, but I have a word count and you have good, important, meaningful work to get to.


The Power of Empowerment

Matt Eastwood
Global Chief Creative Officer
McCann Health
Health & Wellness Judge, Cannes Lions 2019

I’ve judged at Cannes many times before. But, as the new kid on the health-block, I think the organizers were keen to get me on the Health and Wellness jury in order to bring some new perspectives. While all Cannes jurors are looking for work that really breaks the mold, what I saw from my new vantage point impressed me with what I think might be especially true of healthcare communications. There were some brilliant themes that emerged this year, but a lot of the creative work stood out for the wide range of people that it helped empower – from self-diagnosing patients, to people with disabilities, to women overall. And this empowerment was achieved both with brand communications and, through meaningful technology, with new concrete applications and tools.

Matt Eastwood

It’s particularly exciting to see how widespread healthcare creativity is throughout the world. We were honored to be named Cannes Healthcare Network of the Year, which reflected innovative work from all geographic regions, including Shanghai, which won Healthcare Agency of the Year. But beyond our agency, one of my key takeaways has probably been that there are creative opportunities everywhere, with all clients. Pharma clients have a reputation for being conservative. And, whilst that may be true to a certain extent, I have found that our clients – and those others whose work I saw at Cannes – are genuinely keen to embrace creativity and innovation.

Empowering the Patient

Jurors seemed much less excited about tech in and of itself and were looking to award work where the tech slipped seamlessly into the background. McCann Health Shanghai’s “Breath of Life” App was one of the big tech winners, picking up the Grand Prix in Pharma (incidentally, it was the first Pharma Grand Prix awarded in three years). The agency and our client were applauded for combining traditional Chinese blowing-ink art, with creative data visualization and mobile technology into one engaging and user-friendly diagnostic tool. The app allowed people to test whether they had COPD by breathing directly into their smartphones to create animated trees, which then provided a lung capacity diagnosis. I think this points to an overall trend where we will be seeing more innovative technology usefully integrated into offerings that enhance people’s health and wellness experiences.

Empowering the Disabled

This was definitely the year when health became everybody’s business. So many brands that have never traditionally played in the health space have started to make big strides into the area, evidenced by the fact that Ikea’s “ThisAbles” campaign in Israel was the Health & Wellness jury’s choice for Grand Prix. The campaign featured real-world product adaptations that made Ikea’s furniture accessible to people with disabilities. Five years ago you would never have imagined Ikea winning a Health Grand Prix. But we are entering a time when Health and Wellness is going mainstream. The next few years will be amazing as brands start to really focus on the consumer and patient.

Social Consciousness Has Reached New Heights

From female genital mutilation, to testicular cancer, to addiction, to periods and vaginas, this was the year that no subject was off the table. Viva La Vulva from Libresse picked up awards all week, including a coveted Titanium Lion. It’s a beautifully executed campaign that celebrates female empowerment in the best possible way. The world around us may be divided, but the ad industry united around the notion of creating a more inclusive world for all, recognizing that it makes business sense and addresses legitimate consumer and societal needs. If the industry paid lip service to diversity and inclusion in the past, advertisers and marketers turned their words into actions by creating ads and products designed to meet the needs of various gender, race and ability groups.

“Ten years ago we were only talking about the big ideas and today we’re talking about the big ideas that change the world,” said a Lions jury member for Brand Experience. Several recent surveys have found that “9 out of 10 millennials would switch brands for one with a cause.” Making the world a better place is no longer just a nice thing to do, it’s a business imperative. Pharma and healthcare marketing’s ability to enable improvements in people’s lives – whether in the large sphere of public health or in helping to personalize self-diagnosis and individual adaptation – is a trend I expect to see continuing well beyond the awards shows.


Bold Wins

Michael Bonilla
EVP, Executive Creative Director
McCann Health New York

Affordable Swedish furniture, stylish kicks, and a few feminine products. Three products that likely don’t belong in a single sentence together, but in this case, at Cannes 2019 – they work so well together. In our industry, that can often focus too much on what’s functional, these three campaigns serve as a vision on how to step past the obvious use of their product’s benefits and ladder up to industry-shifting, business-driving, incredible work.

Michael Bonilla

For me, Ikea’s “ThisAbles” had the biggest impact of any campaign this year. Whereas our industry tries to ensure campaigns apply to the broadest possible population and audience, “ThisAbles” told the story of the few, instead of focusing on the many. This campaign truly showed brand leadership and the pull-through of a brand promise – not through messages, but through action. It will forever affect the way I speak of “people” instead of “patients”, the way I embrace diversity when creating a campaign, and the way I will continue to pursue brand actions as a mandatory part of brand communications.

In Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign, Nike put philosophy at the same level as product. In the wake of people burning sneakers across social media, the agency and client didn’t pull the campaign, but instead doubled down on their effort. For me, the “Dream Crazy” campaign showcased everything one can want in an incredible agency/client relationship – confidence, guts, and trust – all while staying true to the brand vision and values. With bold creative, there is always the potential of offending someone. I can’t even imagine how many great ideas have died because of a one-off comment in market research.

Following up on a stigma-busting campaign with #Bloodnormal last year, Libresse also doubled down on their approach to brand marketing. Last year, Bloodnormal directly attacked the fact that period blood was never seen in a TV spot. This year’s evolution, “Viva La Vulva”, went beyond just period stigma and created an anthem celebrating vaginal pride. I’ve already shared this campaign with so many clients – some of whom, despite working in healthcare, have felt uncomfortable sharing it more broadly. Despite one’s level of conservatism, there is no denying nor disrespecting the beautiful crafts(women)ship, the incredibly catchy track, and the wonderful 360 pull through of the idea. I saw a lot of tactical, one-off ideas win at Cannes this year. I believe we have to continue to push the single, big, brand idea that gets pulled through multiple media and channels – one of the things “Viva La Vulva” did so well.

In healthcare, we have to be bold in our approach. We work in categories surrounded by stigma: depression, uterine fibroids, erectile dysfunction, cancer, and more. Health unites us. Scares us. Motivates us. Makes us laugh. Ugly cry. Our advertising should absolutely be just as powerful as the life-changing products we promote. This is something I truly believe and will always stand by – that our industry can do world-class, PR-worthy, life-changing creative. Work that isn’t good “healthcare” work, but great advertising.

Agencies need to continue to encourage clients, as true partners, to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. In a world where patients and HCPs are bombarded with messages 24/7, how can we make sure our communications don’t become part of the 89 percent of the advertising and marketing that isn’t noticed or remembered. In The Case for Creativity published by Cannes Lions, Peter Shillingsburg said, “Creativity is whatever isn’t something else”. Collectively, we need to create innovative work that embodies this attitude instead of benchmarking ourselves against work that has been done before. The power of health is incredible and brands outside our space clearly are noticing. Big pharma brands can have just as big of an impact on people’s lives as furniture, sneakers, and pads. If we are willing to be as brave as they were this year.


Cannes Health Lions – Disrupting the Standard of Healthcare Excellence

Chris Rudnick
Executive Creative Director

At TBWA, we take the Lions very seriously. It’s surprising what an honor it is to simply be invited to Cannes to watch others win awards. But it is an honor, and one that is worth every second – not for the rosé, or the boat rides, or the dinners, but for the sum total of time spent purely on creative. At no other point in the year do we get to immerse ourselves so fully in the creative work of both our own agencies and our peers. What makes the experience so significant to me isn’t something I can point to on the schedule of events. Instead, I find the magic of Cannes in the discussions that happen between sessions, the brainstorms over current clients, the setting and resetting of creative goals, and the approach we ultimately decide to take to get it done.

Chris Rudnick

This year, Lions weren’t handed out for well-crafted headlines and executions. Instead, the judges went in search of soul and impact. What I and other agency representatives took away from the ceremony was that it is no longer enough to rely on traditional communications. The standard of healthcare marketing has been raised to such an extent that true excellence is now defined by creating platforms that are both flexible and meaningful with measurable results. Agencies must be makers – the creators of diagnostic devices, breakthrough technologies, and life-changing tools – all while possessing enough drive and conviction to see their creations through to having actual human impact.

Submissions that were beautiful, punchy, and innovative were passed over for lacking nobility, authenticity, and purpose. Case studies that may have taken home awards in previous years were taken out of the running for not having a distinct voice or failing to create real change; and while some may have returned from Cannes feeling defeated by a lack of recognition for even their shortlisted work, those of us from TBWA felt more energized and engaged than ever before. When we watched the moving case studies that this year’s judges deemed to meet their exacting criteria, we understood that pharma is finally getting its day in the creative sun. For the first time, we feel that healthcare marketing agencies have a real shot at making revolutionary work that can move the needle toward the greater good without relying on played-out tropes and uninspiring formulae.

This year’s big winners took deep emotional inspiration from the communities and categories for which they were created. The personal stories and passions of the winning teams drove their ideas past the many barriers around pharma and into final execution. The activations and tools that won Lions are helping change the lives of tens of thousands of people. McCann Tel Aviv’s “ThisAbles” campaign for Ikea, which launched a line of free add-ons that make Ikea furniture more accessible for people with disabilities, won the Grand Prix in Health & Wellness. “ThisAbles” was the brainchild of Eldar Yusupov, a copywriter on McCann’s team with cerebral palsy whose inspiration came from his own experience using standard furniture. McCann Health, Shanghai took home this year’s coveted Pharma Grand Prix for their “Breath of Life” campaign – a diagnostic tool from GSK that employs a Chinese social media platform in an innovative and artistic way to fulfill the huge unmet need of helping people in China get diagnosed with COPD. Both campaigns identified a distinct opportunity to improve the human experience in widely accessible ways and were as creative as they were purpose-driven.

During a whirlwind week of thought-provoking presentations, what resonated with me most was a talk with last year’s Grand Prix for Good winners from TBWA\India, Mumbai (go team!). In partnership with the Asha Ek Hope Foundation and NeuroGen Brain and Spine Institute, their “Blink to Speak” campaign created a free eye-movement guidebook which invites paralyzed patients to communicate through a new, universal eye language. Not only was the case study a simple, elegant, and effective way to empower people who cannot communicate in traditional ways, it was also a lesson in finding creative inspiration in the lived experiences of those closest to us. The idea came from TBWA team member Geet Rathi’s personal struggle trying to communicate with a loved one suffering from ALS. Her desire for an affordable and effective system that would help restore quality of life to both patient and caregiver launched a global revolution in how paralyzed patients can interact with the world around them. The talk got me thinking that if we can really allow our empathy to drive us, we can use our pharma platforms to transform the lives of not only strangers struggling with healthcare challenges around the world, but of those near and dear to us as well.

This is an exciting time to be in the industry. So many companies, big and small, are launching truly disruptive products. We all now have a real chance to make a difference, but we cannot rest on our laurels and expect our old methods to ensure our competitive edge in this new era. Cannes may set the bar, but it is up to us to constantly nudge it upward with every challenge disrupted and every life changed. We need to be bold and we need to be brave. Passion without creativity won’t get you to Cannes. Creativity without purpose won’t win you a Lion. And purpose without impact won’t change the world.


The Pursuit of a Higher Purpose

Brit Till
EVP, Executive Creative Director
The Bloc

In the health space, we get to work on products that have a clear, built-in purpose which is evidence-based and rigorously studied. For example, the purpose of a game-changing medicine in a rare disease is to improve the lives and treatment outcomes of people suffering from that disease, right? On the surface, it may seem like prescription medicines are living their purpose every day, by virtue of being prescribed and used by the people who need them. But in the arena of Cannes, what separates great from good is the commitment to stand for something more important in culture, and to create work that expresses purpose at a higher altitude.

Brit Till

It was inspiring to see brands like Ikea and Huawei tackle accessibility challenges with ingenious solutions like “ThisAbles” and “StorySign” – these initiatives feel so intuitive to their brand’s purpose and yet they are unexpected and go far beyond the call of duty to address clear unmet needs. So, if a furniture company can democratize accessible design for a global community of people with accessibility challenges, and a telecommunications company can make an app that fosters literacy in deaf children, what big, hairy, audacious purpose can the brands that save lives and treat diseases pursue? It all comes back to knowing the people you are serving, digging deeper to empathize with the issues they are facing, and building new solutions for their problems. Pushing to the higher purpose is the best part of what we do, and Cannes is where that is celebrated in the biggest way.

To pitch and make brave ideas that make a difference, you need champions inside your agency and among your clients. So, there is yet another layer of purpose to understand and act upon – your agency’s and client’s “why”. Watching the agency and client team behind Essity’s #BloodNormal campaign present that inspiring case study, it struck me that everyone involved in that work would sooner quit their job than not produce it. They believed in it so wholeheartedly, and they knew deep down that it was bigger than themselves, and that it had to be done. It was a union of personal and brand purpose, and it tapped into a potent historical and cultural moment. So that’s our challenge: to find the purpose that is as necessary as the treatments we champion.


Joseph Nieweem
Senior VP, Management Director
FCB Health New York

Several years ago, a college professor told a group of students in my class that many of us would eventually choose to leave advertising because we would come to feel that we weren’t contributing anything to society. When I started out in the industry, nothing seemed further from the truth. But from time to time over the years, the words spoken by that professor have crept into the corners of my mind, and I have asked myself, “What am I contributing to society?” Many former colleagues have had the same thought as they’ve left the industry to pursue what they believed would be more fulfilling careers.

Joseph Neiweem

Having the opportunity to attend Cannes this year – and see the healthcare work firsthand – helped remind me that, in fact, this industry does a great deal to help better society. There were a number of powerful creative ideas that showed how the healthcare marketing industry can – and does – change the way people think about the health conditions they face, along with providing new ways to tackle their health and wellness concerns.

The Grand Prix winner, the beautiful Breath of Life from GSK and McCann Health Shanghai, used a smartphone app as a diagnostic tool for people who may have COPD. Utilizing the ancient art of Chinese blow painting, the app calculates lung volume from the user blowing on their phone and displays the result as ink-blown tree art. The innovative use of technology clearly demonstrates the power that healthcare marketers can have in changing how an entire nation thinks about a condition like COPD, and more importantly, gives them a practical tool to begin the diagnostic process.

In the Innovation category, AREA 23, an FCB Health Network company collaborated with Wavio on an entirely new product called See Sound to help alert the deaf to sounds happening within their home. The See Sound device is placed in rooms throughout the home, and when it picks up a noise, such as crying, yelling or even a doorbell, it sends a message to the user’s phone alerting them to the sound. Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness shared Deaf 911, a text-to-speech app designed to help deaf people receive quicker assistance from 911 calls. The app converts the caller’s text to speech for the 911 operator and converts the 911 operator’s speech to text for the caller, helping to reduce wait times and saving lives. Both of these ideas showcased the good that marketing companies and advertising agencies can do for people with disabilities. With these simple, powerful solutions to everyday issues, those with hearing disabilities can live better lives in a world that rarely thinks about them.

The creativity on display at Cannes was impressive, but it was the thinking that has gone into addressing the problems of underserved communities that was truly inspiring. Seeing the creative problem-solving that went into Breath of Life, See Sound and Deaf 911 is a reminder that, at its core, healthcare marketing is what we choose to do to improve people’s lives.

Witnessing the depth and breadth of work at Cannes was a strong reminder that when we think beyond our disease education campaigns, when we think beyond the crazy launches, when we think beyond the pills, the work we do can be extremely rewarding. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be a part of the healthcare advertising community should hold our heads high, and recognize that we make a difference and contribute greatly to society.


Eunice Kindred
VP, Associate Creative Director
NEON, an FCB Health Network company

My introduction to the Cannes Lions Festival was ironically in a neighborhood pharmacy, attempting to use my smartphone to translate the French indication and dosing information on the side of a box of infant pain medication. Nyla, my 4-year-old daughter, fell ill over the course of our 9-hour flight to Cannes, and I needed something to break her fever. At that moment, facing this convergence of health, technology and a potentially serious problem, two things were not lost on me: 1) Down the street from where I was standing, great campaigns were being awarded because someone likely faced a very human problem – as I was – that needed to be solved, and 2) If one scenario personified what it means to be a working parent, this – managing a sick child and work – was definitely it.

Eunice Kindred

As the FCB working-parent correspondent, my mission was to be a physical representation of FCB’s commitment to normalize working parents in the ad industry. My presence, along with my two daughters – the fever-ridden Nyla (who recovered two days later) and her 5-year-old sister, Winter – brought smiles to the faces of many people who shared their personal parenting stories or helped them explore brand activations like Facebook Beach or Pinterest’s playground (their favorite place). From theater presentations to intimate panel discussions, I found various themes that resonated:

Action triumphed over visibility. The daily Badass Women panel highlighted C-suite women from a dizzying array of companies in advertising, publishing and media – most of whom shared that, in order to show diversity and inclusivity in the promotion of their brands, they must continue to activate change and challenge bias within their internal teams.

The Female Quotient – a movement committed to advancing equality in the workplace – hosted several panels in their FQ lounge, a place where women (and men) could connect to cultivate change together. To smash stereotypes, Project #ShowUs – a collaborative initiative between Dove, Getty Images and GirlGaze – provided authentic content made by women, showcasing real women within Getty’s stock image database.

Many of these women championed how their personal roles at home played an integral part in their commitment to changing the landscape in the office.

Speaking of a changing landscape, there was a heightened sense of purpose at Cannes as companies confronted ways to increase diversity and inclusivity in the industry. I was particularly drawn to the Inkwell Beach activation presented by the Cannes Can: Diversity Collective that hosted panels that tackled issues such as ageism, tokenism and recruiting AND keeping diverse talent. This same sentiment was echoed in a discussion on race with Nikole Hannah-Jones, a journalist for The New York Times; Tarana Burke; Cindy Augustine, Chief Talent Officer for FCB; and self-proclaimed “actrivist” Gabrielle Union – who advocated leading their own companies to “hold the door open” for others.

It was an overwhelming week that required all hands on deck (parents: recruit help) and also gave me a firsthand look into how changes we collectively make now, can impact the way my daughters will engage with their own selves, their peers and their world. If they took away anything from a week at Cannes, it was that the bar has been set, and they are free to run an agency… and win a lot of Lions.


And then an idea came along… and saved us all

Felipe Munhoz
VP, Creative Director
AREA 23, an FCB Health Network company

Not long ago – at least not long enough that we could have forgotten already – we had an apocalypse on the horizon. Facilitated by the then much-publicized millennium bug and “Oops!…I Did It Again,” it seemed we had never been so close to the end.
The scenario looked as bad as it could get for the advertising business as well. Netscape’s screen was the new “print ad,” TV was becoming extinct for real, radio was a vehicle worthy of only exhibiting in museums and the whole industry would succumb to the World Wide Web.

Felipe Munhoz

Somehow, luckily and against all odds, we survived.

And despite all the other perceived threats throughout the following years – from ad blockers to social media influencers – one thing’s never changed: the power of an idea.

Yes, the canvases have changed a lot, and mostly for the better. Technology advancement allows us unexpected possibilities of craft and reach. It changes where the audience is and the way they engage. But the list of Cannes winners proves, once again, that it will take more than a couple of algorithms and self-driving cars to replace the minds behind the ad agencies.

Technologically speaking, The New York Times’ Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix winner, The Truth Is Worth It, is so simple that it could’ve been produced 50 years ago. It does not rely on any shiny After Effects plug-in, but on a message that is incredibly powerful. The same goes for Nike’s Dream Crazy, Black & Abroad’s Go Back To Africa, or An-Nahar’s The Blank Edition. They capture us by their guts. Not by the smartphones.

Such an irony. For instance, The Female Company’s The Tampon Book winning the PR Grand Prix in an era when millions say books are dead. Could they have gotten it done via the Amazon Kindle? No. And that is what gets me excited. Cannes has been about celebrating ideas since its first year, and I would dare say it will always be about ideas.

I know. One can say: What about cases like See Sound or Keeping Fortnite Fresh. Could they have won a Cannes award without technology? But let me reframe the question a little bit: Could they have done it without their respective ideas? Was it all just about “putting a brand on Fortnite” or “making an app that recognizes sound?” Or was it about the storytelling, the purpose, the insight?

Rock beats scissors. Effectiveness beats efficiency. Again.

There are always threats on the horizon in regard to creativity. Always new technologies, new media, new data. Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Word are not enough for a creative anymore. It’s better that one knows a little bit of CGI, coding, engineering, electronics and how to build a quantum space shuttle using tools you could find in your garage. The future is not an easy place for those who are working in this industry. But thank you, Cannes, for reminding us that, regardless of all the complicated shenanigans, at the end of the day, it’s an idea that will come along and save us all.


The Year of Humanity, Accessibility, Inclusivity, Equality, Authenticity, Sustainability, and Burger King

Debra Polkes
Managing Partner

I came away from Cannes this year feeling very hopeful for the world. It seems that the advertising industry is putting most of its creativity towards solving the world’s ills. Brands and corporations are fighting for age, gender and race equality, they are championing the disabled and are combating political injustices and fake news. They are striving to be about something bigger than the brand itself and to find meaning and purpose within the context of the world we’re living in today. For the most part Cannes left me feeling thankful that companies are boldly taking on timely and controversial issues, but after wandering through the corridors of posters of the work and watching hours of case studies, I started feeling a little overwhelmed by the abundance of “purpose” and started to get a feeling of deja vu. So many brands are tackling the same issues and It made me question the authenticity of intention. There can’t be THAT many brands that are really committed to taking on tampon tax. Don’t get me wrong, it was a breath of fresh cote d azure air from last year’s programmatic, tech and data obsession. This year’s “authentic storytelling” obsession at least made me feel something at every turn and renewed some of my faith in humanity. But I did start to wonder aloud – where are the brand ideas? Where are the business goals solved through creativity and innovation? Are we too embarrassed to actually be selling products? Was everyone trying too hard to find a higher order of meaning?

Debra Polkes

We are fortunate in pharma because we have an abundance of meaning and purpose already baked into our brands. We represent medicines and molecules that touch actual lives in real time, so it was especially disheartening to see no truly regulated brand work recognized. I know we had an all-time low of Pharma submissions this year, but I also got the sense that work that was seen as ‘just a brand ad’ was automatically rejected. In years past, Pharma did recognize print campaigns with Bronze and Silver. Maybe the quality just wasn’t there this year? Or was it the mindset? This is not to diminish the work that won, but if we want this award show to thrive this is worth a little thinking about. We need recognize quality in all its forms.

There was a ton of diversity in the work that was recognized in other sectors. Coke for example was a winner with the Try not to hear this “visual ASMR” print ad. And last year’s big winner was the perfectly crafted KFC ad glorifying the hot and spicy fried coating on their chicken. This could be a function of Consumer that judges print against other print vs in Pharma where all mediums compete against each other. Are we giving all kinds of work in Pharma a fair shot? Something else to consider.

The work that was the most inspiring for me used creativity and innovation to serve the brand’s business and also managed to live in the context of our times. “ThisAbles” for IKEA clearly positions IKEA as a company that cares about inclusivity but it’s also a business building strategy – more people can now enjoy IKEA furniture. The New York Times’ “Truth Matters” campaign is a masterpiece in storytelling. The goal was to increase NYT subscriptions in a world where information is everywhere and it’s largely free. They succeeded by taking on one of the biggest issues of our time – the proliferation of fake news. Through their campaign they demonstrated the value that they serve beyond the printed word. You pay for the invaluable and difficult work of digging up truth.

Finally, practically nothing brought me more joy than the pure evil genius of Burger King once again using McDonald’s as their foil. They PROVED that creativity is essential to business. The Whopper Detour was a stroke of brilliance. Previous attempts at getting people to download the BK app by giving away free Whoppers as a reward just wasn’t working. But by asking people to go out of their way to a McDonald’s to download the app for a 1cent Whopper they unleashed pure joy, participation and 1.5 million downloads. That’s what our business should be all about. And for those of us in the healthcare world, we can have that extra satisfaction about promoting something other than fast food or soft drinks! My hope for Pharma at Cannes next year is that the pendulum swings back and more companies use the power of creativity to build brands in unexpected ways.


Cannes Lions 2019: Great Expectations

Deborah Ciauro
EVP, Creative Director
Ogilvy Health

As a society, we focus on health more than ever. Expectations are high not only for health and wellness but for every communication around it. Those who truly have risen to that communication challenge were represented at this year’s Cannes Lions.

Attending a global creative marketing festival such as the Cannes Lions, you can’t help but be struck by the transformative power that strong creative communication has. It has the capacity to change behaviors, dialogue, and attitudes. Particularly in healthcare, communication must push beyond the norm and transform complex scientific information into arresting content. These are the keys to truly and meaningfully connect with the audience.

Deborah Ciauro

This year, we saw design and technology used even more effectively to create exceptional patient experiences that were empathetic, seamless, and empowering. It’s not tech for tech’s sake. It is leveraged to improve education, adherence, and overall well-being. Look at GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK’s) Pharma Grand Prix winner, Breath of Life – a revolutionary new app for self-testing for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in China. The app has connected with a lost COPD population through a thoughtful collaboration of art, science, and technology.

While healthcare is very data driven, some of the most effective work is that which translates that data into an emotional insight. Science with a heart. It allows for standout storytelling that provokes awareness and action. Pharma Gold winner, One Word, is an animated film that follows a single word, “baby,” through the mind of a patient who has aphasia as they are trying to say it. Every scene was based on real input from a patient with aphasia and their speech pathologist, making it a very moving and beautifully animated piece rooted firmly in reality.

This year’s Health and Wellness Grand Prix winner, ThisAbles, is a clear indicator that seeing beyond conventional approaches in healthcare has become everyone’s business. A simply brilliant and innovative idea inspired by a copywriter who has cerebral palsy and is on the marketing team, Ikea developed 13 open-source 3-D printed add-ons for their iconic products, making those products accessible to the disabled. Ikea became the first major retailer to address this need in the disabled community and in a way that was global and scalable and reflected the values of the company. Health is not just for pharma companies anymore.

So, the stakes are raised. As healthcare continues to move into the mainstream, the need to elevate what we’re saying and how we’re saying it has become imperative. The work at Cannes this year highlighted that. To cut through the general communication noise, we must be as innovative as we are inspired and as creative as we are relevant. Audiences are growing savvier and more sophisticated. They’re expecting it. And as marketers, we need to expect it of ourselves.

Observations of the Cannes Lions International Festival

Raghu Desikan
SVP Creative Director
Ogilvy Health

First, let’s get all of the terrible puns out of the way. It wasn’t exactly a Cannes job. For most in traditional pharma, it was a case of no Cannes do. Therefore, it seems like a good time to evaluate the pros and Cannes of participating.

While the work that won awards at Cannes and in the health and wellness category was truly inspiring, uplifting, and wonderful, it was hard to find direct connections to the work we do every day in pharma marketing. Why, you ask? Well, let’s put it this way: Ikea won a Grand Prix for ThisAbles in the health and wellness category. Ikea, makers of the Swedish meatballs and Airbnb furniture. Even Burger King had a health entry. Oh mon dieu!

Raghu Desikan

Within the pharma category, GSK won the Grand Prix for “Breath of Life,” an initiative out of China. They came up with a nifty COPD self-testing app on the WeChat platform, where the air blown was converted into Chinese-blowing ink style art. Was it an FDA-approvable clinically accurate app? It wasn’t, but heck, it won big, anyway.

Bottom line: as things currently stand, it’s difficult for mainstream pharma submissions (ads, conventions, etc.) to make the cut – and almost all of the traditional entries fell short of the podium. Where there was success, it was not related to the direct promotion of the brand per se, but to a greater purpose aligned with the brand’s grand ambitions.

If we take a step back, we can see a trend about big ideas. Not those in terms of traditional ads, TV spots, and apps, but those in the broader sense, which move a brand forward in the eyes of its customers and stakeholders. We need to rethink what creative is about. And it’s not really all that different from what we do. It’s still about ideas, except that there are no limits.

What’s the magic formula? What works best is social responsibility-driven communications that can help clients indirectly by tying the brand to a worthy cause. Think of it as virtue- or benefit-selling. It begins by asking the right questions and looking at the problem differently.

With all the changes in society, we need to look broadly at our target audience. Are we ignoring particular audiences because they are not direct users? How can we indirectly boost the brand’s equity and share-of-voice as well as approach our clients using conventional tactics with which they are comfortable?

To win, it takes a passionate team and some incredible footwork. We need to ensure that these ideas align with the brand’s greater purpose. We need to get clients excited about the benefits of virtue- and benefit-selling. And we need to rekindle that passion that attracted us to this profession in the first place.


That’s a wrap – Cannes Lions Health Sinks Into the Sunset

Rich Levy
Chief Creative Officer
Klick Health

After three days in the south of France, one thing has become clear. While healthcare advertising has come a long way, it still has an even longer way to go.

Rich Levy

While we would like to believe that the work is among the best in the industry, after sitting through multiple award shows at the Lions Festival of Creativity, I can safely say our best work is not nearly as good as the best work in the rest of the industry.

While there were several campaigns that I liked in Lions Health (including “Breath of Life” and “One Word”), nothing moved me as much as campaigns from Nike, Volkswagen, The New York Times, Burger King, The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, and The National Centre for Domestic Violence. These campaigns stopped me in my tracks. They forced me to watch. Several made me cry. Yes, I was crying during the awards show.

Not because I was sad, but because the work made me proud to work in this industry. And I was jealous. I want the work we all do in healthcare (myself included) to stop me just as much. And it can, it should, and I believe we can get there.

The best campaigns all have the same core components: incredible storytelling; wonderful craft; and a strong human insight that moves you to think, feel, and do something. So now, let’s superimpose what we do in healthcare. We work on products that literally change people’s lives. Those are stories we should be telling. Stories we should be producing with craft that is industry-breaking. And those are stories that are always infused with human emotion and truth.

We can do it. It’s not good enough to be really, really good.

Good is just the beginning. But I believe that great is still in our future. medadnews