Despite the formidable competition, these takeaways
from this year’s Pharma and Health & Wellness juries
can improve your chances for winning a Lion.
1. If your entry doesn’t have amazing craft, it
won’t win. While this seems obvious, the reasoning
behind it isn’t. As jury members assess submissions in
the earliest rounds, they’re looking for reasons to eliminate work. With thousands of entries, the first eliminations are those that lack amazing craft. Rather than look
for amazing ideas or impactful results, judges are looking for amazing copywriting, art direction, design, illustration, photography, direction, editing and cinematography. If your entry doesn’t pass the craft test, it doesn’t
get past the first day. The ease with which 1,000 entries
are whittled down to just 250 should speak volumes
about the level of craft necessary to get shortlisted.
2. Your local idea should have global appeal. Jurors come from around the world. If your
idea is regional, you’ll need to account for its relevance in your case film or write-up. McCann Health’s
“Immunity Charm” can attribute its success to the
clarity with which the film explained the significance
of a charm bracelet and its ability to aid in childhood
vaccination. While this idea was specific to Afghanistan, the bracelet’s utility for healthcare professionals had mass appeal.
3. Juries like a good surprise. Most of the mul-tiple-award winners at Lions Health had not been entered in shows prior to Cannes. This means that jurors
haven’t experienced “award fatigue” with entries judged
at multiple shows throughout the year. Entries like FCB
Toronto’s “Down Syndrome Answers” made their debut
in the jury room – and the jury was clearly impressed.
It won 3 Lions during Lions Health, and 7 more during
the main festival. The entry had craft, drove results and
was not worn out by the time it was met by the jury.
The takeaways are endless. Emotional work still
resonates. Some of my favorite campaigns made me
cry, then laugh, then cry some more. Four standouts
included “Sick Kids VS,” “The World’s Biggest Ass-hole,” “Evan” and “Halloween.” If you haven’t seen
them, you should. I’m sure you’ll wish you created
them. I know I do.
I think it’s important to debunk the notion that U.S.
agencies can’t win within the confines of regulations.
U.S. agencies won plenty of Lions this year. For the first
time, U.S.-based Area 23 won Healthcare Agency of the
Year. I hope we can finally put that myth to rest. While
winning a Lion is incredibly challenging, especially for
branded pharma work, I still believe it can be done.
All it takes is a game-changing global idea that’s both
incredibly well-crafted and surprising. I never said it
would be easy.
The Piano Starts Softly
and Slowly Builds …
By Graham Mills
Global Chief Creative O;cer
Editor’s note: Mr. Mills served as a member of the Pharma
Lions 2017 Jury
There were 580 entries
into this year’s Pharma
category at Cannes Lions
Health. That’s 580 case
films accompanied by a
solo piano track that begins with a few spare notes
and builds to an optimistic
Of course, with judg-
ing lasting five days, you
quickly tire of the ivories being tickled. This matters,
because the way to win is to stand out, to be memorable,
to separate from the pack. Looking and sounding the
same as everything else is something that tripped up a
lot of entries this year. Of course you need a great idea,
but the craft of storytelling within the case study is just
as important. Without it your great campaign will fade
into the background.
Another important distinction is whether the work
is Pharma or Health. Unlike most shows, the Cannes
Health Festival separates the two, and with good rea-
son. Without the Pharma category there would be no
need to have any Health Lions – the work in Health
& Wellness could easily just become part of the main
show. Indeed, only two the 80 agencies awarded in
Health & Wellness were specialist health agencies. This
gives the Pharma Lions a real significance.
With this in mind, the jury gave itself a purpose. We
set out to “protect Pharma.” This meant recognizing
the work that was true to the category. We decided that
this meant communications for medicines, products,
devices and treatments that required interaction with
a healthcare professional; they had to live in a regulat-
ed environment and be an agency solution to a client/
This purpose made judging easier, and the shortlist
shorter. In fact we ended with a much shorter list than
What was also interesting was the nature of the
work submitted. Only a few branded campaigns were
entered, in fact there was very little traditional adver-
tising at all.
And that is where the real difference between the
Health & Wellness and Pharma categories really
showed up. Watching the Gala on Saturday night, the
two categories stood in stark contrast. Health & Well-
ness was almost exclusively advertising in all of its
forms – and there was some beautiful work in there.
Pharma was a celebration of health experiences. It
highlighted really exciting and breakthrough ideas for
new products, devices and treatments that transform
what health feels like.
In some ways this year’s Cannes Lions Health
threw a spotlight on what is already happening in
our world. Agencies are shifting and transforming
to deliver new kinds of work and health solutions.
Yes, the majority of work is still advertising, but then
there are the new ideas – the partnerships, use of
technology and health hacks.
Next year I expect this difference to be even more palpable. So, if you want to win a Health & Wellness Lion,
do great advertising. If you want to win in the Pharma
category, look for the new ideas that transform how we
First World Problems
By Susan Perlbachs
EVP, Executive Director
GSW-NY, an inVentiv Health Company
Here’s the First World
problem that seemed
to most vex our industry during Cannes Lions
Health this June: We
failed to find what it takes
to win a Pharma Grand
It’s well documented
that agencies are able to
hear Lions roar by deliver-
ing life-changing creativity
for the developing world. As we likely all know – to the
tune of a total of eight Lions, including the Grand Prix
for Good – “Immunity Charm” dominated the show.
The idea leaned into the cultural occurrence that while
local Afghans have biases against vaccinating, leading to
50 percent completion rates, there is an affinity among
Afghans for putting evil eye bracelets on newborns.
But winning Lions for solving developing world issues isn’t something unique to this year’s show. Some of
the most notable winners over the show’s short history
include solving for iron deficiencies in Cambodia with
a lucky fish icon. Adding the lucky iron fish when cooking provided the iron families needed. Another winner
found a way to decrease iodine deficiencies in women
of childbearing age in India: by using culturally beloved
bindis as iodine patches. The list goes on.
That said, we haven’t quite cracked the “life-changing
creativity” code for issues that most plague the developed world, such as obesity, heart disease, or staggering
rates of diabetes (though CDM London deserves props
for their work with Ascencia Diabetes Care, which resulted in bronze Lions wins).
It seems we can more easily uncover cultural insights
to help “fix” what ails those in poorer, oftentimes less
educated parts of the world than uncover the same level of life-changing ideas for issues that consume our
neighbors, families or even ourselves. Could it really be
that as an industry we are least able to help our own
pharmaceutical clients and to solve issues that affect
the population we know best? As writers, we are told
to write what we know. It seems hard to simply accept
that we have the hardest time finding cultural insights
to help the clients – and populations – who are closest
When it comes to life-changing creativity worthy of
a Pharma Lion Grand Prix, we challenge you to think
beyond brand and embrace life-changing insights and
Why is Pharma so afraid to stand
out? And other musings from
inside the jury room.
By Gary Scheiner
Chief Creative O;cer
ghg | greyhealth group
Editor’s note: Mr. Scheiner was a member of the Health &
Wellness Lions 2017 Jury
I had the immense honor
of being a judge at Cannes
this year, one of only 390
across 23 different juries.
It was my second time
judging, but my first time
on the Health & Wellness
jury. I was beyond excited, not because I would be
tooling around the south
of France, but because
I was going to see, firsthand, the best of the best that this industry had to offer,
and I was going to help decide the work, the agencies,
and the clients we would all revere and envy for the
We reviewed over 2,300 entries in Health & Wellness. Compare that to the roughly 600 in the Pharma
jury. That was the first eye-opener. Why so few entries
from a part of our business that is innovating and evolving at warp speed? Biotech. Personalized medicine.
Genomics. Revolutionary breakthroughs. Products and
devices. There’s no shortage of amazing things happening in pharma and yet, there were only 1/3 the amount
of entries as the broader health & wellness.
Every day at lunch, we would see our Pharma jury
colleagues and we’d ask, did you see any great Rx
work today? Anything that made the hair on the back
of your neck stand up? Anything that we can take
Publicis Health GSW-NY
ghg | greyhealth group