Pharma advertising has long been considered second-tier when compared to the rest of the advertising industry. And there are some legitimate reasons why. Nike sneakers and Coca-Cola soda ads will likely always be additional entertaining or exciting than regulated campaigns for diabetes and heart disease.
Even now, the Cannes Lions advertising festival of creativity was pharma and healthcare advertising’s annual possibility to glow. For the earlier eight years, pharma agencies and shoppers stood facet by aspect with consumer companies and agency hotshots on the most important advertising award stage in the planet at the Palais in Cannes, France.
However, something modified this yr. While the awards for pharma and wellbeing and wellness have been handed out to widespread applause on the first night time of the show, for considerably of the rest of the time, healthcare marketing was relegated to the again of the area and mostly off the main levels.
The pharma and well being and wellness category award finalists, for instance, were being tucked in the back corner of the basement of the most important building. Even people who wanted to see the operate complained that they had to look for for them. Only three Cannes Lions official sessions this calendar year covered health and fitness or pharma advertising topics and ended up mostly general topics about creativity, diversity or empathy.
There were being no pharma and wellbeing circumstance research dissections or deep dives into the special challenges in wellbeing and pharma advertising — and, probably a lot more importantly for the industry, there were no pharma executives on the Cannes stages as they have been in the previous. Patricia Corsi was the lone pharma-connected executive she is the chief marketing officer of Bayer Consumer Wellness and served as both equally a speaker and overall health and wellness jury president.
Patricia Corsi speaks on a judge’s panel (Clara Bui/Endpoints News)
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Even between this year’s health and fitness and wellness award winners, no gold prizes went to pharma companies. Unexpected winners like Heineken and Harley Davidson did, however, get property the gold for their respective vaccination and “Tough Turban” campaigns.
There are two schools of imagined about the disappearance of Cannes Lions Wellbeing as an official programmed keep track of. On a person hand, it signifies the parity of the industry with huge consumer models, but on the other hand, it also intended fewer conversations, significantly less networking opportunities and an overall dimming of the industries’ presences at Cannes Lions.
“I would be lying if I did not say that I was disappointed so far,” reported Loaded Levy, chief creative officer of Klick Wellness on the very first working day of the demonstrate. “When you are talking about a multibillion dollar industry in the US, I considered that 31 shorter checklist for pharma was remarkably little … I really don’t feel it’s an accurate check out of the work that the industry is doing.”
Pharma and health and fitness and wellness entries each were way down this 12 months. Total pharma entries dropped to 298, down from 509 final yr with 11 total Lion awards given out. In wellness and wellness, there were being 1,213 entries, down from 1,300 past yr. There had been Grand Prix awards given in both of those categories, but this was the to start with yr it was required — in the previous, judges could pass around a category for the major award if they imagined it did not rise to the level of Grand Prix.
For the second calendar year in a row, the Grand Prix in the pharma category went to a non-pharma company. Dell Technologies and Intel snagged the prime prize for their voice application for people with motor neuron disease. The entry — created by VMLY&R New York and termed “I Will Always Be Me” — aids people with MND financial institution a digital duplicate of their voice by reading a story e-book.
In the well being and wellness category, Maxx Flash’s mosquito repellent campaign “The Killer Pack” took the top rated prize. The repellent is designed to address India’s mosquito problem, with a biodegradable packaging that kills mosquitoes outside although a nontoxic coil fights them inside.
Other wellness creatives and executives agreed with Levy’s award assessment, but also expressed concern about the limited health and fitness content. The health and fitness and pharma panels and award deep dives that ended up presented obtained solid reviews, but there ended up scant few in the official program, together with a handful of unofficial ones outside the key venues.
Several overall health agency networks established up off-web site slates of healthcare and pharma programming — WPP Health and IPG Overall health equally offered multiple panels and discussions at their own web pages. CMI Media Group hosted a panel at the Pandora Seashore pavilion on audio branding, though other company creatives like Levy and Bernardo Romero, along with Ogilvy Health’s Adam Hessel and each panels of judges for pharma and overall health and wellness, attended sessions and networked with others in the well being community.
Even now, there just weren’t as several health and pharma people on the ground as there typically have been in the previous as agencies cut back rosters of attendees and did not invite as a lot of consumers. That’s likely in section owing to the Covid-19 pandemic recovery year of Cannes Lions this 12 months as nicely as budget considerations in general.
Dana Maiman, CEO of IPG Well being and a lengthy-time Cannes Lions attendee mentioned, “I’m hoping the changes honestly are just temporary. Because I remember when I very first started coming here — I imagine this may perhaps be my 10th one particular or so — but again then it was consolidated. It was really liberating when it was focused and broken out, even while clearly there is a large amount of crossovers and all of that. But I imagine there is something pretty special about celebrating the creativity in our environment because we can all agree it is more challenging.”
Hessel, chief creative officer at Ogilvy Wellbeing, claimed one reason for fewer entries was heavier curation down to just a couple of this year, but extra that no matter the numbers, Cannes and other marketing award shows still are important for the industry.
“Just celebrating good do the job in any category is what the industry really requirements and also it’s possible to pull again a bit — everybody’s looking for that a single crown jewel, but there’s so much great function out there that ought to be celebrated,” he reported, including, “When purchasers see good function, they want that also, so that is the bar.”
Corsi, meanwhile, mentioned she would like to see a lot more creativity from pharma marketers. She finds that creatives in the pharma industry are often properly trained to be far more conservative, because if you cross the line, you facial area regulators — but she would like that to adjust.
“We really believe that there is a excellent opportunity for us to elevate the bar in this category,” she mentioned. “Work in wellness and wellness consistently across the yrs has not been the most inspiring.”
That doesn’t necessarily necessarily mean the work should really be much more complicated. According to Corsi, sometimes the simplest notion is the most effective. What she wants to see, even though, is far more outside-the-box thinking.
A handful of execs, including Corsi, noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has served as a wake-up call for pharma companies discovering what their purpose need to be with patients. Pharma advertising is becoming extra of a conversation as opposed to a a single-off encounter, Corsi said. Even companies like Walgreens — which facilitated the vaccination of far more than 30 million Americans — are taking a new approach to advertising.
“The pandemic, there is no going back. You cannot unhear the bell, proper? The bell’s been rung,” said Mel Routhier, main creative officer of the WPP Walgreens group. “It’s a very good factor for us to consider inventory and say we can have additional purpose as a brand.”
A person detail that has not adjusted this yr? The level of passion that pharma creatives are bringing to the conference.
“What I’m taking away now, that I guess it’s possible I did not really expect, is how considerably passion people have in the operate that they are doing,” said initially-time attendee Gena Pemberton, Omnicom Health Group’s main diversity, equity and inclusion officer. “[It’s] really impactful to be capable to converse with people in different areas, understand a little little bit a lot more about the perform they’ve done, and just seeing how excited everybody is to be together all over again.”
In the close, the questions remain. Does Cannes Lions need to have a separate pharma and health keep track of? Or vice versa, does pharma and healthcare advertising have to have that spotlight at Cannes? The debate won’t be easily settled.
Franklin Williams, director of experience design at Place 23 and a pharma choose, reported, “It doesn’t really matter who’s doing the get the job done as prolonged as the targets are being strike. So I think which is what you are starting to see almost as a craze and a topic. It doesn’t have to be, we did pharma because we’re pharma. We did pharma because we wanted to do excellent.”
The danger, of study course, is that without broader inclusion, specific content and much more awards, pharma may possibly reduce interest in Cannes.
“It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And what I necessarily mean by that is fewer winners each and every calendar year necessarily mean fewer entries the following calendar year. And fewer entries signify fewer winners,” Levy mentioned.