Cannes Lions Health goes virtual, giving up on a live show this year

Flags flying outside Cannes Lions 2019
Cannes Lions Health will be a virtual event for 2021, although organizers promise creativity will be championed "on a huge scale." (Beth Snyder Bulik)

The Cannes Lions Health ad festival is officially going digital for 2021.

After opening registration in January for in-person attendance in the south of France in June, the healthcare advertising-and-creativity festival hit the reality of the ongoing pandemic.

COVID-19 cases are rising again in France, and while vaccination efforts are ramping up, only healthcare workers, people ages 70 and over and those with serious health conditions are eligible so far. Beginning next week, 60-to-70-year-olds will be eligible, followed by 50-to-60-year-olds on May 15 and then people younger than 50 by mid-June.

The now fully virtual Cannes Lions Live event will run from June 21-25 with live and on-demand content, including the award shows where the coveted creative trophies are bestowed. Because the festival was canceled last year, awards will be handed out for the most creative campaigns in both 2020 and 2021.

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“We want to be able to give our community the chance to immerse themselves in the creative work once again,” Simon Cook, Lions managing director, said, promising to champion the work "on a huge scale—tracking progress throughout the week, analyzing the winners, delivering insights, (and) identifying new talent.”

Judges for the two-track Lions Health awards have already been selected. Leading the pharma judges is Anne de Schweinitz, global managing director for healthcare at FleishmanHillard, while Tom Richards, global chief creative officer of 21GRAMS, will head up the health and wellness judging panel.

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More details on the virtual festival content will be released soon, the organizers said. Standalone tickets for the event will cost €249 and go on sale in May.

And even though the event is now completely online, as de Schweinitz said in January, it’s important that the show goes on.

“This feels like a really interesting and important time to be in these jobs because of the creativity that it takes to come up with solutions in the middle of a very strange time,” she said.