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Richard Levy and Laura Schoen tell AdAge the USA didn’t get a fair chance at Lions Health


By  Advertising Age

In its first year, the two-day Health Lions festival generated only one Grand Prix – leaving the pharmaceutical category empty-handed – and a lot of conversation around how creativity in healthcare and pharmaceutical brands should be judged.

Dentsu won the top prize in the health and wellness category, the Grand Prix, for its “Mother Book.” But nobody took home a Grand Prix in Pharma, the other category. And some attendees felt like second-class citizens knowing that the “real” Cannes festival would only begin once Health Lions was done.

Should the Health Lions continue to be a separate festival from the main Cannes Lions? Should the competition somehow address the different regulations on pharmaceutical ads in different countries?

We asked execs at the festival, including:

  • Nick Colucci, CEO of Publicis Healthcare Communications Group
  • Chris Miller, divisional VP of global brand strategy and innovation at Abbott
  • Laura Schoen, chair of Latin America and president of the global healthcare practice at Weber Shandwick as well as a Health and Wellness juror
  • Rich Levy, chief creative officer of FCB Health

Here are their answers, lightly edited.

Does it makes sense to have a health festival at Cannes? Should it be part of the main competition?

Chris Miller: Even before seeing the results I believed this made sense. The work in health just wasn’t part of the creative conversion and agencies and clients who did this work generally didn’t attend Cannes. This meant that the people and the work didn’t benefit from the creativity and content from the Cannes Lions.

Nick Colucci: I’m torn on the idea that Lions Health has to be a separate festival. If the idea is for us to enhance the level of creativity in health and wellness, I think it would be better to be incorporated into the main festival.

Rich Levy: I’m just not convinced it should have its own show. Just as every category at Cannes has its own ‘specialist’ jury – Matt Seiler heading the Media jury for example – healthcare should continue to have its ‘specialist’ jury members from the Pharma and Health & Wellness community.

Do you think creativity and the criteria for judging creativity at Cannes should be thought about differently when it comes to healthcare/pharma?

Rich Levy: No, not at all. We should be judging the world’s best work with the same criteria – otherwise winning a Cannes Lion will not have the same importance. The one thing that has to be considered is the different regulatory environments around the world. Some entries that won at Lions Health this year would never get through the U.S. regulatory system. We have to make some adjustments.

Nick Colucci: Creativity matters as much, if not more, in health than in any other industry. But, we must stop thinking that pharma and healthcare people have a different brain than everyone else. All great creative work must have a purpose, it must be meaningful, and it must be relevant to its audiences. Isn’t that the challenge of all of the work here in Cannes? Some will say our heavy regulation kills creativity. But I think fear kills creativity.

Why do you think there were so few US entries on the short list? How do you better account for regulatory discrepancies regionally?

Laura Schoen: The impact of FDA regulations on product-related information creates many hurdles for creativity. The regulations impact not only the content, but the design and even the size of the font that can be used in work that requires fair balance information. Many ex-U.S. judges have a hard time figuring out how to evaluate the work in this context. Additionally, entries go head-to-head against nonprofit campaigns from developing markets that move the jurors. The U.S. may not be entering as many pro bono campaigns as other markets.

Rich Levy: Yes, I think the differences in the regulatory environments may have had something to do with the lack of U.S. entries on the shortlist. I know many of the entries from the U.S. were multiple award winners in the U.S. pharma shows, including Clio Rx,Effies, Manny Awards and MM&M Awards. Why they ultimately did not even warrant a shortlist is still a mystery. I’m not sure you can account for the regulatory discrepancies in the current single jury structure.

One possible solution could be to have additional categories for products without regulatory restrictions. That may give a film entry with 40 seconds of legal copy a fighting chance again an entry that does not require any legal fair balance.

Nick Colucci: The short answer is “it’s complicated.” Obviously the U.S. has the only DTC advertising in the world, or close to it, which creates more opportunities on one hand, yet saddles them with required regulatory language that must be carried with each piece of work. U.S. agencies understand this type of work generally will not score highly in Cannes, so didn’t bother to submit it. But beautiful inspiring work was entered from around the globe making Lions Health the largest healthcare communications awards show in its first year. But this year, the best work came from other countries — Columbia, Japan, Brazil, and Australia. All of this work could have been created in the U.S. and I hope U.S. agencies take this opportunity to study this work, and take a fresh look at their work and their submissions in 2015.

Chris Miller: Two reasons: natural conservativeness and there wasn’t a bar for great being celebrated. While I would have loved to see the US in the shortlists, there’s now a bar set by the winning lions on what great work is. And the funny thing is there are “restrictions” in all types of work (just listen in to those who don’t win), and while in healthcare/pharma there is greater legal, regulatory, etc. I think we’ve seen that really good work can still be done.

What should the festival do differently next year?

Nick Colucci: This was a good first year. There were a lot of things that were done right and a few things that could change. Starting with having more creatives from our industry and more clients in attendance. Regarding content, there were some good quality sessions but all did not live up to Cannes-level quality. And lastly, I would have liked to see more of the work shown during the awards ceremony itself — from Bronze to the Grand Prix. In this first year, the Lions Health awards show was far shorter than most of the main Cannes Lions awards ceremonies, so it can easily accommodate a longer format — or at least until the entries and winners grow to the other ceremony levels.

Laura Schoen: I would suggest that the organizers set clear definitions about what can and cannot be entered under a certain category. It doesn’t make sense to compare work that is developed around a product with work that is meant to raise funds or increase awareness for a goodwill organization. Some campaigns viewed by the Pharma jury were really wellness ones, for example. Pro bono work should go under a distinct category. Work that has already won a Grand Prix at Cannes Lions should be prohibited from submitting entries for additional awards, including for Lions Health. In general, the criteria for acceptance of entries and the definition of what really fits in each category is very much a grey area.

Rich Levy: To begin, more specific categories which will allow for smaller innovations to compete with larger programs. I attended the award show for the Outdoor Lions at the Cannes Festival, and there were almost a dozen separate categories in Outdoor alone. I think adding more categories would get us all thinking about the work we do and present to our clients, in a different way. I also would not have the festival be on separate days. It leads to the ‘second class citizen’ feeling among the industry.

What should agencies and marketers entering the Health Lions do differently?

Laura Schoen: First, improve the quality of their entries. Make sure they are very visual, high quality and tell a story succinctly. Second, global agencies should mobilize their offices around the world to submit more entries. It may be more time-consuming for a non-English speaking agency to put together a winning entry, but the results show that they do well. Countries like Brazil, a silver medalist with “Super Formula for Cancer,” and Japan with “Mother Book,” a Grand Prix, won medals with campaigns geared toward improving the patient experience.

Nick Colucci: Enter work that is inspired by a higher purpose and to be more fearless.

Rich Levy: I would bring more clients to Cannes. When I met the FCB Brazil client from Nivea she said something amazing about Cannes. She said it was her one day-a-year to refresh her mind. To see the innovations. To learn. To be inspired. I think we should all bring more clients and to inspire them to new levels of creativity. The second thing I would do differently is I would look very carefully at the categories and case study films to ensure the judges truly understand the restrictions and obstacles in creating the work and getting it produced.

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