Med Ad News interviewed Josh Prince, CEO of DDB Health, CMO of Omnicom Health Group and Jury President of Health & Wellness Lions 2016.

Med Ad News: Please discuss the process of becoming and serving as a jury member and president for Health & Wellness Lions 2016.

Josh Prince: The whole jury selection and president process is really handled by Lions Health. I served on the Pharma jury in 2014, and was fairly vocal about the work. Jeremy Perrott from McCann was our jury president, and I think he may have had a hand in suggesting me for a future jury-leadership role. That’s what you get for having a big mouth.

Lions Health reached out to me over the winter and asked if I’d consider being a jury president. They dangled the carrot that my fellow 2014 juror and friend, Alex von Plato from Digitas Health, was also being asked. It was a genuine honor, and I’d get to hang with Alex, so of course I agreed.

In the spring, I was introduced to the Health & Wellness Jury – my 17 new best friends from around the world. We spent a couple weeks getting to know each other online, and discussing ground rules and expectations for our jury. We agreed that while Cannes is in France, we’d designate it “Creative Switzerland” for our time there, with neutral affiliations to everything but the work.

Lions Health does a pretty good job at engineering diversity into their juries in terms of nationality, geography, and experience. On Health & Wellness, we had folks from India, Japan, Germany, Portugal, the UK, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Canada. A great, diverse crew – and not just creative folks – weighing in on the work.

The real heavy lifting began a month before Cannes, when juries are required to view and pre-vote on entries before showing up. In our case, this was about 500 video entries per juror – 28 hours of viewing over four weeks. If you left it until Memorial Day, do the math: that’s 9 hours a day over a three-day weekend viewing case films on your laptop. You don’t get much of a tan from a laptop – don’t ask me how I know.

Lions Health uses a nine-box voting system, online for pre-voting, and on tablets in the jury room. Voting is simple: 1-3 means you wouldn’t consider the work for shortlist; 4-6 is possibly for shortlist; and 7-9 is likely to shortlist. It’s a simple but effective process to help juries pan for bronze, silver and gold.

Med Ad News: Looking back at the process of being a jury president at Lions Health, is there anything you would have done differently or recommend doing differently in future years?

Josh Prince: I feel pretty good about the debates we had and what we ultimately awarded this year at Lions Health. I think all of my jury-mates (and most of the folks I’ve spoken to) would agree. But we did have some pointed discussions.

One had to do with a provocative entry about sexual consent, targeted at college kids. Some jury members loved it; others found it offensive and problematic. It just so happened that only 4 of our 17 jurors were women – and a few of them felt this way about the entry. After a strong but civil debate, the jury voted not to shortlist the work. But I think a more gender-balanced jury would have helped here (and everywhere else). That that should be a goal for Cannes, as it should be for agencies.

We also viewed some work whose legitimacy was debatable. These entries felt like what Lions Health calls “scam” work, that’s created just for submission to Cannes, and not really for clients. From a jury president’s standpoint, it’s important to listen to your gut, and to raise this with the festival folks and your jury if you think something’s fishy. Awarding BS work is BS and cheapens the entire festival.

The last area of real debate was about technology entries. Health and Wellness had a lot of entries that showcased really cool and innovative technologies. But I’m of the mind (and as a jury we largely agreed) that we’re in Cannes to reward communications ideas, not really product innovation. If you start awarding actual technology stuff, you might as well start giving Lions to actual medicines or drugs. I’d vote for some of the new cancer immunotherapies myself! But I don’t believe Lions Health is about product innovation. It’s really about communication, and how great work can reach, touch, engage and influence people. We put a focus on rewarding powerful communication ideas.

Med Ad News: Looking back as a jury member, from helping emcee the awards show, from attending the panel sessions, etc., what were your main takeaways from the Lions Health festival?

Josh Prince: Well, first I’d say there is definitely better and more diverse work being submitted to Lions Health. I talked about this as a lot as jury president. We’re seeing the “healthification of everything.” Just about every product or service or brand is trying to find an interesting or inspiring way to attach itself to health, or wellness.

What’s interesting is that some brands and company efforts that are totally outside the healthcare space – like paint companies! – are doing super-compelling work around health stories and health narratives. And that’s upping the bar of what good work looks like for actual healthcare brands. It’s great that Valspar earned a Lion for their #ColorForAll entry on helping colorblind people see color. But drugs or products that improve people’s vision or save them from actual blindness (like macular degeneration therapies) should be at least as good. So I think this healthification of everything is really upping the ante creatively, and puts pressure on healthcare communicators to be more ambitious in their work.

Med Ad News: For someone considering attending Lions Health for the first time, what reasons would you give them to do so?

Josh Prince: Cannes Lions Health has become a genuine global festival of ideas, innovation and creativity in the healthcare space. While it’s a trip from the US, a time commitment, and not cheap, the sheer exposure to how people are thinking, creating and connecting around health is just incredibly enriching, eye-opening and inspiring. That’s because it’s not just an awards show. It’s really a festival of creativity that combines speakers and seminars and demonstrations in addition to the actual awards show itself.

So I’d say for anyone whose livelihood is dedicated to communicating about health, it’s worth the trip – at least once. More clients are going, more agencies are participating, and the festival itself is evolving and improving. The stuff we’re privileged to market and communicate about can actually changes people’s lives. It’s worth seeing how that’s being done by the very best.