Cannes Lions Health and PR’s (Supporting) Role

Cannes Lions Health and PR’s (Supporting) Role

 In Health, PR Strategy

Another Cannes Lions is in the rearview. I’m talking about the International Festival of Creativity that recognizes excellence in the marketing communications industry—not the glitzy Cannes Film Festival that takes place the month before in the same seaside town in France. Although, creativity or film, you will still catch your fair share of celebrities!

Each June, I take in whatever I can about the Festival and Cannes Lions Health, the two-day event within the larger affair that focuses on all things health. It’s an excellent opportunity to see what health and pharma companies are doing to push the envelope in this highly regulated industry; and, more importantly, what is lauded as the most creative and transformational in marketing and communications.

Pharmaceutical companies took home a record number of Lions Health awards this year; but, once again, couldn’t capture the most prestigious award, a Grand Prix. Cannes continued to favor advertising- and marketing-led campaigns. The PR industry still can’t get a foothold, even though PR is a critical component of award-winning campaigns.

Cannes is just one of the big industry awards. As I look across the first half of 2018 and award-winning campaigns so far, here are the themes I’m seeing. Campaigns with the most impact:

  • Are purpose-driven (more than a sales pitch)
  • Tackle big issues through a simple and inspiring execution (authentic)
  • Tell stories through compelling visuals and experiences (accessible)
  • Generate significant earned media interest and social sharing (demonstrate reach and results)

Below are my top picks for Cannes award winners in health categories. Or take a work break to peruse all 30 Grand Prix winners—you might be surprised how many are health-related.

  • MSunderstood Café from Roche and MS Ireland: Bronze Lion winner in the Pharma Lions. What’s notable? This campaign uses experiential marketing to give people a glimpse into life with MS.
  • Prescribed to Death from the National Safety Council: Won two Bronze Lions. This is the campaign that JPA’s Melissa Zuckerman brought to our attention in her April blog post.
  • Lighter Blue from Takeda/Lundbeck: Winner in the Social Media category. What’s notable: it uses light-hearted humor and a spokes-character named ‘Blue’ to open dialogue about Major Depressive Disorder.

Paul Holmes may have said it best: “PR ideas are winning, PR agencies should be winning more. Right now, we are being credited with a supporting role, which is kind of like playing a stormtrooper in the Star Wars universe when we should be aspiring to be George Lucas.”

For those of us in PR, let’s continue to flip the model on creativity. Particularly when it comes to complex issues like health, we understand storytelling best. We know how to unlock emotion to bring attention not only to the devastating conditions that affect people around the globe but also to the truly astounding stories of possibility and triumph, which are often delivered by companies—our clients—dedicated to making life better.