Cannes Lions Health: 48 Hours of Pure Creative Inspiration

The Lions Festival in Cannes, France is an event on the calendar of every creative interested in being inspired by the work of their peers and learning what’s new in the world of branded content. For our team, it’s no exception – we made the trip for the Lions Health portion of the festival to soak in what our peers in leading health brands are excited about. There’s no better way to describe this year’s experience than 48 hours of pure creative inspiration.

The Oscars of Advertising

Cannes Lions is an international festival of creativity – essentially, the Oscars of advertising and marketing. Agencies and brands from around the world submit work from the past year – the actual creative output that was advertised as a campaign, as well as the story behind what made the campaign resonate with its audience.

The Lions festival produces Cannes Lions Health, now in its fourth year, as a standalone two-day conference of its own, on Saturday and Sunday, before the larger Cannes Lions festival happens later in the week. The inspiration is endless and the quality of the event is unparalleled – from the conference speakers and panels, to the brand activations at the event, to, of course, the exhibition of the work itself.

What were we most excited about this year? Read on to get a glimpse into our high-level takeaways from Cannes.

The speakers

We were so excited going into the conference to be able to hear the backstory of two of our favorite recent campaigns in the US – GoBoldly, backed by PhRMA, and the hilarious “Ways In” campaign from UnitedHealthcare.

Andrew Mackenzie, Chief Marketing Officer at United Healthcare, explained how the journey of the campaign spanned many years and countless iterations. What they thought would resonate well, consumers were bored with, turned off by, or just downright hated. Andrew gave credit to their agency, Leo Burnett, who weren’t deterred by scrapping work that internal team members didn’t want to sign off on; as well as his executive team for taking the risk on a humorous, consumer-focused campaign for a health-insurer – something that had never been done before, but something that paid off in spades – including as a Lions gold winner last year.

The only disappointing part of the programmatic content at Cannes? We couldn’t see it all!

The activations

Of course, at a conference built for and by creative marketers, the branded activations are beautifully designed and well thought-out. The largest activation this year had to be the MM&M and Klick Health cabana – a dedicated space over the two days to unplug, grab a drink, and get inspiration from the world-renowned artists they brought to the space – from a DJ, to a graffiti artist, to an architect.

But we were most impressed with all of the great content inside the Palais itself. From sponsored sessions to interactive exhibits to branded giveaways, it was all there. Established companies like Google and IBM Watson demo’ed in the MedTech Expo next to early-stage startups. (What a great opportunity for startups!)

The work

While the programming and brand activations are a highlight of Lions Health, by far the most impressive piece of the weekend is the exhibition of the shortlisted award applicants. This year, we spent hours viewing and interacting with “the work” – which was nothing compared with the 150+ hours each of the chosen jurors spent judging.

The campaigns submitted were beyond words – global, inspirational, impactful – they provided us more inspiration than we could dream of for our own next year of marketing. But, don’t just take our word for it – we caught up with one of the jury members to get his expert perspective on the campaigns.

“I have never been more excited about the future of the health & wellness industry after judging all the brave, imaginative, heartfelt work at this year’s Cannes Festival of Creativity. The craft and quality were as high as I have ever seen. And the broad range of clients who now see themselves as members of the healthcare community is very exciting and enormously promising for humanity.”

Gary Scheiner, EVP and Chief Creative Officer, greyhealth group; Cannes Lions Health & Wellness Jury, 2017

What most struck us about the campaigns on this year’s shortlist? Here’s what inspired us at Cannes.

  • Optimization for local culture. Cannes is truly a global event, and that’s evidenced by the work submitted. One of our favorite examples of inspiring creativity from underrepresented countries was Footnote for the Breast, a campaign for Medcare Women & Children Hospital in the UAE, where talk about breast cancer is stigmatized among women. The campaign put small stones with information on breast health in the shoes of women when they went to pray, subtly spreading the message and giving them a hotline to call if they had questions.
  • Fundraising campaigns. We were also struck by the overwhelming number of campaigns that were focused on moving donors for a cause. We have to give a shout-out to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto’s SickKids VS campaign, which showed sick kids fighting illness like they were elite athletes fighting an opponent. Donations for the hospital skyrocketed as the campaign caught potential funders’ attention in a non-traditional, engaging, and inspiring way.
  • Other non-profits and public service announcements. To be sure, the campaigns that most inspired us (and the jury) were often for non-profits and other worthwhile causes that truly increase the health of our population. One of the most stirring campaigns is that of Evan, a high schooler who we follow in a typical high school experience – asking a girl out over the summer break. Just as the two are about to make plans, a shooter enters the scene and makes our hearts stop – and the entire story is rewinded to highlight the warning signs that the shooter, a fellow student, had been displaying all along.

Our team congratulates all of the entrants to this year’s Cannes Lions Festival – and is excited to enable future entrants to create memorable calls to action with the launch of .health domains this year!

What will you build on a .health domain that could win at Cannes next year? Tweet us your ideas @dot_health!

Craving some creative inspiration, or have a campaign that you think deserves an award? You don’t have to wait until Cannes next year. Check out the Clio Health awards – now accepting nominations for 2017.

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