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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Lions Health Takeaways: Thinking about our business through rosé-colored glasses

Written by: | | Dated: Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

By Louisa Holland
Co-CEO the Americas
Sudler & Hennessey



They say it’s the light in the south of France that attracted so many of our favorite artists – Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, and Leger, among others – all drawn to those magical low hills tumbling into the sea, bathed in a uniquely clear and warm light. But writers came there also – were Fitzgerald and Baldwin also mesmerized by the light, or was it the calm that allowed their creative minds to run free? My guess is that all the artists, writers, poets, and actors that found some sort of refuge and inspiration in Provence came because there is a freedom that comes from beauty and tranquility and warmth. And it’s that freedom that liberates the mind and the soul to create something beautiful or meaningful or unexpected. So it’s natural, then, that the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity should take place in Cannes – just plopped down in this beautiful place that has cradled creativity for decades. Or is it?

To me, Cannes Lions Health is anything but tranquil. And the work bears no similarity to a painting or a novel crafted in solitude by a gifted individual. Rather just the opposite: What the work at Cannes demonstrates is that the best creative concepts of the day are the result of collaborative work by a group of mismatched specialists. Just like last year, when a brilliant and touching initiative from P&G (“Intimate Words”) brought together an unlikely team of nurses, linguists, educators, and sociologists, one of this year’s most inspiring ideas came from a team of neurologists and bike mechanics (“This bike has MS”). The ideas that result from these unexpected connections are the ones that truly surprise you and enlighten you. They make you understand a disease or a public health challenge, or the value of a brand, in a way you won’t easily forget. They are surprising, telegraphic, and memorable. Ah – the hallmarks of a great campaign.

So if some of the best ideas at Cannes Lions Health are the result of these “atypical collaborations,” perhaps it makes sense that the festival program is fast-paced and non-linear. I’ve always found the Cannes Lions Health agenda to be a bit scattered and disjointed. Maybe “disrupted” would be the polite word of the day. When I look back on my notes, they appear to be just random, unrelated ideas (“Note to self: Amazon’s Alexa can have a personalized voice! Could this be developed into a better adherence tool??”) But maybe that’s the idea – maybe the ultimate adult learning principle for guiding us to create bigger ideas is to put us in a place where the ideas collide in a fanciful display of entropy. If innovation occurs at the intersection of disciplines, is the Cannes Lions program trying to make the most of those intersections?

No matter what you think of the work – a few things take your breath away, while many others are more traditional than you’d hoped – and no matter what you think of the conference – a few unexpected moments of insight and inspiration connected by many rather quotidian thoughts – at the end of the two days the Cannes Lions Health Festival will force you to think about your work and your company in a new light.

For us, in our business, the light we need for inspiration is the light of optimism …. about what can be accomplished when we put our ideas together, and about the positive impact our work can have for patients and their families. It may not be the sunshine that brought Picasso and Matisse to the south of France, but it works for us. So after two days of light, filtered through collegial conversations with your colleagues and quite a bit of rosé, and whether you leave Cannes Lions Health inspired, jealous, disappointed, angry, or proud, try to take away some optimism about where you can take your business.

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