Cannes Lions 2019: Great Expectations

by Deborah Ciauro

As a society, we focus on health more than ever. Expectations are high not only for health and wellness but for every communication around it. Those who truly have risen to that communication challenge were represented at this year’s Cannes Lions.

Attending a global creative marketing festival such as the Cannes Lions, you can’t help but be struck by the transformative power that strong creative communication has. It has the capacity to change behaviors, dialogue, and attitudes. Particularly in healthcare, communication must push beyond the norm and transform complex scientific information into arresting content. These are the keys to truly and meaningfully connect with the audience.

Particularly in healthcare, communication must push beyond the norm and transform complex scientific information into arresting content.

This year, we saw design and technology used even more effectively to create exceptional patient experiences that were empathetic, seamless, and empowering. It’s not tech for tech’s sake. It is leveraged to improve education, adherence, and overall well-being. Look at GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK’s) Pharma Grand Prix winner, Breath of Life—a revolutionary new app for self-testing for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in China. The app has connected with a lost COPD population through a thoughtful collaboration of art, science, and technology.

While healthcare is very data driven, some of the most effective work is that which translates that data into an emotional insight. Science with a heart. It allows for standout storytelling that provokes awareness and action. Pharma Gold winner, One Word, is an animated film that follows a single word, “baby,” through the mind of a patient who has aphasia as they are trying to say it. Every scene was based on real input from a patient with aphasia and their speech pathologist, making it a very moving and beautifully animated piece rooted firmly in reality.

This year’s Health and Wellness Grand Prix winner, ThisAbles, is a clear indicator that seeing beyond conventional approaches in healthcare has become everyone’s business. A simply brilliant and innovative idea inspired by a copywriter who has cerebral palsy and is on the marketing team, Ikea developed 13 open-source 3-D printed add-ons for their iconic products, making those products accessible to the disabled. Ikea became the first major retailer to address this need in the disabled community and in a way that was global and scalable and reflected the values of the company. Health is not just for pharma companies anymore.

So, the stakes are raised. As healthcare continues to move into the mainstream, the need to elevate what we’re saying and how we’re saying it has become imperative. The work at Cannes this year highlighted that. To cut through the general communication noise, we must be as innovative as we are inspired and as creative as we are relevant. Audiences are growing savvier and more sophisticated. They’re expecting it. And as marketers, we need to expect it of ourselves.