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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Lions Health: Things can only get better

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

By Andrew Spurgeon
Executive Creative Director

Editor’s note: Langland received two Silver and five Bronze awards from a shortlist of nine individual nominations at Lions Health 2016. Clients Healthcare at Home and Shire received the honors for both integrated and print campaigns.



Lions Health. Year three. The first thing I noticed on arriving at the Palais is that there is a new-found permanence to the event. It was bigger and better provided for than in the previous two years. And, although it’s still small when compared to the Festival as a whole, this year Lions Health felt less like a side-show and more like a legitimate extension of the burgeoning Cannes brand itself. So far, so good.

Likewise, the seminars have improved both in terms of content and stature, with some worthwhile talks from a variety of speakers. If there is one criticism I would make, it’s that health takes itself way too seriously, and I would like to see more truly entertaining topics to bring the industry together. Having stuck around for. Innovations and some of the main Cannes sessions, I can tell you that the engagement levels rise substantially the more mainstream you go. That’s expected, I suppose, when Gwyneth Paltrow, Will Smith and Oliver Stone are on the bill. But, I’d like to think that we could find our own heroes to celebrate over in Health.

So to the work. First of all, I’m going to ignore 75% of all Lions Health entries because, frankly, the only agencies submitting and seriously competing in Health and Wellness categories this year were not health specialists. Health and Wellness has become so dominated by mainstream agencies that it will, I’m sure, be causing some irritation to the health(care) agency community at large. I’m reasonably sure that only one shortlisted entry was attributed to an agency that primarily works with professional health clients. The takeaway? Must try harder, at least if those are the awards you so desire. (By the way, it can be done and we’ve done it, it’s just very very tough.)

That leaves us with Pharma. The category that is really what Lions Health is supposed to be all about. These are the clients the Festival wants to attract, after all. Not the already converted masses of marketers who are eligible to submit into the main show. Here, it’s a mixed bag. The Grand Prix awarded for Philips is a beautifully modern take on an old-fashioned product demo. Wrapped lovingly in production values and craft to a benchmark-setting standard. Bravo. Well done. This was an accolade richly deserved. You’ll note that, again, the winning work was drawn from the very generalist, very good non-health specialist O&M London. And that trend, to a certain degree continued, with some of the best metal-winning work in Pharma being awarded to mainstream advertising agency brands.

There were exceptions, of course. ‘Last Words’ from Medulla Communications and Havas Life’s ‘Parkinsounds’ both stood out and both ideas originated at agencies that declare specific expertise in the area of professional health. Beyond a handful of excellent examples, the creative standards begin to wane considerably across the shortlist. In most cases, Lions Health winners have some way to go before they can genuinely claim to compete at the highest levels of the competition. However, we must remind ourselves that the show is still developing and finding its way. Lions Health has most definitely provided the world with an aspirational creative stage. Advertising, communication and ideas have come a long way in the last decade, with the Festival’s involvement helping to fuel the desire to do better.

Personally, a complete immersion in creativity has a tremendously regenerative effect, spurring you on to try harder. It’s a feeling that seems to be shared, with colleagues and peers declaring a commitment to go back to their agencies and make better work. Work that, no doubt, will be tipped back into the Cannes Lions machine to be graded, sorted and celebrated next year.

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