Healthcare Creative Is Finally Getting Its Much-Deserved Recognition at Cannes

Opinion: Because it’s a topic that’s important to everyone

Healthcare is a perspective that everyone can relate to in some way. - Credit by Cannes Lions
Headshot of Claire Gillis

It’s hard to believe that health only became part of the Cannes Lions family just five years ago.

Today, creativity in the category is (rightly) gaining a reputation for being among the best out there. After years of living in the shadows of its consumer cousins, healthcare is shaking off its niche strapline and earning recognition on the biggest stage. It makes for an intriguing prospect: As we look ahead to the sixth installment of Lions Health, could health creative emerge as Cannes’ star attraction? One thing is for sure: The health Lions are starting to roar, and there are compelling reasons why.

Interest in Lions Health has rocketed since it was first introduced as a standalone event in the run-up to the main festival to promote the value of creativity in healthcare communications. Within three years, annual entries in health, wellness and pharma categories had more than doubled, topping 2,800 in 2017 and persuading organizers to reschedule the event to run alongside the mainstream festival. Along the way, an even bigger breakthrough occurred: health-based creative—and, indeed, specialist healthcare agencies—have started to win big in categories outside of health.

Health is a human story; it affects and connects everyone.

It shouldn’t surprise us because health creative matters. A glance through the winners’ archives reveals a depth of creativity that’s measured not just in revenues but in human impact and quality of life. For example, award-winning creative has increased global vaccination rates, reducing childhood mortality in poor and rural communities. It’s opened up the conversation around lethal cancers, empowering women with the language and knowledge to challenge cultural taboos in female cancers. And it has inspired people with respiratory problems to find new ways to prevent breathing difficulties getting in the way of their ambitions.

Across the board and in every area that influences health and wellness, there’s a growing recognition that creative communications can help address the world’s biggest health challenges. But these the rewards run much deeper than Grand Prix gold.

The critical acclaim has not happened by accident, either. Consumer expectations around health and wellness have grown in line with technological advances, but relentless demand for healthcare is putting doctors and hospitals under tremendous strain. Necessity is the mother of invention; with global health systems crying out for transformation, technology and innovation are helping to shift the dial of creativity, elevating storytelling to unprecedented levels.

The best health creative has always been crafted around a forensic understanding of patients and disease, and it’s always married science with art to create arresting experiences that change minds and behaviors. Today, celebrated campaigns are playing with a full orchestra of creative opportunity. They’re blending innovation like interactive technology, cinematography and artificial intelligence to create personalized communications that make a difference to health.

While change and technology provide oxygen for creativity that’s raising the bar of health communications, success still relies on solid marketing principles. The most effective creative makes an emotional connection with its audience; it cuts through the noise and speaks directly to the human subconscious that drives our inner thoughts and life decisions. It’s arguably in this crucial area that health creative has a natural (and enviable) point of difference: health is a human story; it affects and connects everyone. We’re playing on fertile ground.

The award-winning creative of tomorrow will make the most of technological revolution, delivering memorable experiences that inspire and excite. The results of the Young Lions competitions each year justifies my optimism. And underpinning all of it, extraordinary creative—the kind that changes minds and lives—will be grounded in the “human.” It will speak to our deepest thoughts, emotions and needs and capture the heart and soul of what matters most. Fundamentally, nothing matters more than our health.

Five years after Lions Health was belatedly introduced at Cannes, health creative is finally (and deservedly) cutting through. Why? Because it matters.

@GillisClaire Claire Gillis is international CEO of WPP Health Practice.
Publish date: June 17, 2019 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT