a creative agency that takes care of healthcare brands
Dr Ryan Wallman
01 Jul, 2015

The Cannes Lions festival tends to polarise opinion.

If you’re there, you love it. If you’re not, you can’t stand it.

Actually, that’s being facetious. There are good reasons why festivals like Cannes invite criticism – if not outright derision, as in this interview with Dave Trott.

Lions Health is a somewhat different beast from the main festival. Nobody gets caught having al fresco sex during it, for a start.

And it doesn’t have quite the same level of coolness as the main event, either. Hell, they let me in.

Nevertheless, it’s still Cannes. And it wouldn’t be Cannes without the inane tweets, the statements of the bleeding obvious, and the fawning over technological gizmos.

And, of course, the pretentious jargon – such as this fine example of Cannespeak from one of the presentations:

“We need communication that challenges existing paradigms to build Brand Love, defining purposes that transcend the category.”

So that was the ‘bad’ at Lions Health. What about the good?

Well, the obvious strength of this year’s festival was that it featured some superb work.

Compared to what we often see in healthcare, the creative standard at Lions Health was simply in a different league. To be fair, the nature of some of the work bore little resemblance to what most healthcare agencies do every day, but that’s a discussion for another time.

In some cases, the creativity on show was indeed ‘life-changing’ (to use the festival’s wording). To name just a couple of examples, there was a bindi that corrects iodine deficiency and an app that helps patients with Alzheimer’s to remember their family members.

Some of the winning work used a powerful combination of compassion and wit. As a former wannabe metalhead, I was particularly fond of this one.

Healthcare advertising

Other ideas were less ambitious in scope but beautifully crafted. Some were just bloody good ads.

And for a copywriter, it was particularly pleasing to see this campaign among the winners.

Healthcare advertising

If there was a common theme at Lions Health, it was probably that the best work was underpinned by a ‘simple human truth’ (a commonly heard phrase at the festival).

But what really struck me was that all of the shortlisted work was genuinely interesting in some way.

That might sound like I’m damning it with faint praise, but that’s not my intention. I think it is worthy of note simply because it’s not easy to make healthcare communications interesting.

This partly explains why healthcare work has a reputation for being mind-numbingly boring. But I left Cannes with a sense that things have changed.

And that’s where a festival like this really comes into its own. Leaving aside the (legitimate) criticisms of Cannes, I can honestly say that I came away from Lions Health inspired to do better work. And to, ahem, ‘borrow’ some ideas.

So, finally, what was ugly about Lions Health?

Come on now, it was on the coast of France. In summer. ‘Ugly’ doesn’t exist there.


By Ryan Wallman, Head of Copy at WellmarkRyan tweets about healthcare advertising and pharma communications @wellmark_health

Dr Ryan Wallman, Creative Director at Wellmark. Connect with me on LinkedIn