Last year, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity introduced a two-day Health Lions event and award show that was to evaluate work in two categories: pharma and health and wellness. Pharma disappointed, with no top prize, and the U.S., despite its disproportionate number of entries compared to other countries, had a poor showing on the shortlists of winners.
This year, there was not only a pharma winner, but it was from the U.S., indicating progress for a nation that struggles with one of the strictest regulatory environments for drug ads.
Publicis Groupe's DigitasLBi U.S. took home the pharma Grand Prix for "Take it From a Fish," a disease education campaign for pharma giant AstraZeneca. Sibling agency Leo Burnett Mexico won the top health and wellness prize for "Intimate Words," a local educational effort for Procter & Gamble's Always brand.
"The work we saw this year represents a substantial recognition that this show is coming of age," said Pharma Jury President Rob Rogers. Mr. Rogers is co-CEO and chief creative officer at Sudler. "It's still probably in its teenage years, but certainly the work we saw was a substantial improvement on last year. It was work of greater variety, but also greater quality."
Pharma entries were down, from 517 last year to 432 this year, but health and wellness entries were up from 906 to 1,430, lifting the total number of submissions 30%.
And while the U.S. submitted fewer pharma entries this year -- 155 vs. over 200 last year -- the country still submitted more pharma work than any other. The U.S. took the top prize, but the U.K. still beat the U.S. for the number of pharma campaigns shortlisted. The same went for health and wellness. Out of the 322 U.S. entries, 15 were shortlisted. Mexico, by contrast, submitted 41 and saw 16 shortlisted.
"The U.S. is a giant market that constitutes 75% [of all pharma] sales and 85% of profits," said Mr. Rogers. "Certainly the U.S. was well placed among its top peers, and the entries reflect that. But it's not a one-country show by any means."
DigitasLBi's "Take it From a Fish" introduced two talking dead fish on ice who comically attempt to educate unhealthy men on the nutritional value of triglycerides. They star in numerous episodes on YouTube and through various other interactive means, such as emailing a "fish slap," set out to shame unhealthy eaters for not consuming more triglycerides.
Health and Wellness
Leo Burnett Mexico won the top prize for "Intimate Words," an educational effort for Procter & Gamble's Always brand that set out to change behavior in indigenous rural Mexican communities where the leading cause of death among women is cervical cancer. Women in those communities don't have anatomical words describing reproductive organs, so the creative team behind the campaign redefined technical words like cervix to phrases like, "babies' home door." They distributed books to the women containing all the new definitions in the hopes that they'd use them to keep the conversation going and educate their daughters.
Why it won:
"Beyond being compelling and humorous and beautifully conceived, the platform reduces a complex topic into simple terms," said Mr. Rogers. "It gives a shout out to a conservative client in a conservative market and managed to do something really breakthrough. To quote my fellow jurors, it really blew the door off the category."
Healthy eating conversations on Twitter took off, and YouTube completion was 100% above average for the health category.
When asked if the conservative nature of the market factored into the win, he said, "That wasn't the reason we selected it, but it certainly doesn't hurt… We'd like to think that regulation doesn't define creativity, and it can sometimes help creativity."
Health and Wellness
"We love this," Andrew Spurgeon, health and wellness jury president and exec creative director at Langland said, regarding "Intimate Words."
"It's a highly Catholic environment where there's a stigma attached to discussing women's issues. It's life-changing creativity."
Controversy or clear winner?
Juries were fairly united on work that got gold, said Mr. Rogers, but there was more discussion around the silver and bronze contenders about how the work "fits into this continuum." One campaign that generated some debate, he said, was a campaign for a German voice clinic. "We had a lot of debate about what it was we were looking at."
Health and Wellness
"Boobs, balls and tanning -- is this an industry obsession, checking private parts for a variety of ailments?" asked Mr. Spurgeon.
While preventive efforts were certainly a trend, he also saw a lot of big global ideas, as well as a lot of insights activated at a local level. For example, radio was a big activation medium in a number of submissions. "You don't expect to see a lot of radio in this modern tech age, but it's about understanding where the audience is and delivering communication that speaks to that audience."
Still, the use of technology to solve larger problems was a major theme this year. And there were a number of great brand programs that invested time, money and heart for the good of mankind. "It's wonderful when you see Kimberly Clark, Unilever and P&G reaching out in ways only they can because they've got the financial basis to do that," he said.
"We saw a lot of mobile ideas," said Mr. Rogers. People were "connecting the dots in interesting ways," combining technology with the needs in healthcare, he added. He noted that print was also less prominent as a single category, but was incorporated in many campaigns as an activation.
For both pharma and health and wellness, the juries were made up of top international creatives who judged using four main criteria: creativity; strategy and relevance to medium; execution; and results. The health and wellness jury reviewed 1,430 entries from 61 countries, and the pharma jury reviewed 432 entries from 30 countries.
Grand Prix for Good:
FCB Inferno's "This Girl Can" campaign for client Sport England, a U.K. government-run organization that aims to help people commit to a sport, won this year's Grand Prix for Good. The campaign features women of all shapes and sizes working hard. According to the company's website, within three days of the film breaking, it had 7 million views and was trending on twitter.