Lions Health, Day 2: Allergan on Facebook, AstraZeneca in telemedicine, and the gist? Ads are passé

After set-up on June 15, shown here, the Palais des Festivals was never this empty during the Lions Health festival.

CANNES, France—After the celebrations Saturday night, Lions Health got back to work early Sunday morning. Workday early: Booths in the MedTech array opened for business at 8 a.m., and though the nearby coffee bar may have sold more caffeinated beverages before 10 a.m. than it did the previous day, the Lions Health stages were soon packed with people.

The headliner of the day was Laura Dern, who urged the media to get actors talking about good works rather than on-set anecdotes; it was a talk that mirrored, in a way, the shift in healthcare marketing evident all over the Lions Health event. As the Saturday night awards showed, ads themselves aren’t enough anymore. Agencies and their pharma clients alike said successful healthcare marketers have to solve problems, and in some cases that means good works. 

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Sometimes it means caring for patients without an immediate sales-oriented goal in mind, as evidenced by AstraZeneca’s afternoon presentation about its partnership with Babylon Health and England's National Health Service. It typically means connecting with patients, but sometimes in uncomfortable ways.

That’s just what emerged as Facebook’s Meredith Guerriero interviewed Carey Reynolds from Allergan’s Restasis and FCB Chicago’s Christine Lindquist to talk about building personal connections to health on Facebook. While explaining how and why the Restasis brand allows comments on Facebook—as opposed to the allowable exception by Facebook for pharma brands to turn off comments—Reynolds said that although she often hears that “adverse event recording is such a burden. It’s not a burden, it’s a luxury. It a luxury to be able to have that one-to-one discussion with patients.”


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Meanwhile, true to the trend in pharma, the word “outcomes” dropped into many conversations. Outcome Health, formerly ContextMedia, debuted at Cannes this year with its new brand an illustration of the shift toward tracking real-world performance. For the company, the word not only represents its goal of using data-informed communications at point of care to improve patient outcomes, it’s also a potential revenue stream as it builds up data that verifies particular treatments—the kind of data that drugmakers and providers want to generate.

“Everybody is talking about outcomes, but very few platforms truly have the ability to attribute the lift and measure outcomes attributed to a certain program,” founder Shradha Agarwal said. “That’s where, because we are so provider-centric in our approach, we have the ability to see improved outcomes or not through third-party validation.”

Technology and data not only cropped up regularly in campaigns that picked up Lions during awards night, but in presentations and demonstrations all over the building. At the Omnicom Health MedTech display, the agency was showcasing its IBM Watson tie-up by analyzing Twitter streams for clues to personality and, in a more serious turn, spotlighting a startup company’s prosthetic limbs controlled by patients’ own brains and nerves.

The doctor will see you now—on your smartphone screen. AstraZeneca VP John McCarthy is looking ahead to a time when healthcare is delivered in a completely different way, much of it online and from afar. What does that mean for pharma? That its commercial model will be left behind. That’s one reason why the drugmaker has teamed with Babylon Health and England’s National Health Service on a project to test Babylon’s delivery system, which uses artificial intelligence and a doctor network to quickly, inexpensively and remotely diagnose maladies, first with an AI engine and then, if necessary, with a telemedicine doctor visit.

“If AstraZeneca wants to learn how to play in a new space with a new commercial model, we need to learn from people playing in the space,” McCarthy, who is AZ’s global digital chief, said from a Lions Health stage.

Twitter data guru Mark Callahan presented the social network as the world’s largest healthcare focus group—that is, 500 million tweets every day—that can reveal and inform decisions. To do that, Twitter partners with academics and researchers to improve patient care. He listed examples: flu tracking, hospital patient care (down to the temperature of the chicken broth on a patient’s tray), enabling the United Nations to fight rumors about vaccinations and faster targeting of food poisoning outbreaks.

The Health Lions awards were still top of mind, with jury members showing off their Immunity Charm bracelets in a reminder of Saturday night’s Grand Prix for Good winner, and attendees hashing out the trends over lunch. The talk went official with the “Inside the Jury Room” panel, which put some hard questions to pharma jury members—namely, why some work won and others didn’t.

R. John Fidelino, executive creative director at InterbrandHealth said he was looking for more than just clever ads. “Are we solving a specific problem or are we just trying to put words out there?” He also encouraged more pharma companies to enter or allow agencies to enter more work while acknowledging the difficulty in doing so, saying, “It’s hard for pharma—the classic sense of pharma, but also some medical device companies—to participate in an awards ceremony like this for fear that doing so trivializes the innovation.”

By 5:30, there was a wind-down feeling in the air. The MedTech folks were packing up. Candy bar wrappers and empty wine bottles littered tables on a terrace after one wrap-up party departed. Healthcare agency types were reviewing their travel schedules and talking about the ideas they’d take home with them.

But at the same time, the press room started filling with media arriving to cover the flashier and bigger Cannes Lions. Consumer-branded yachts berthed at the marina. Amid the surge in new activity at the Majestic Barriere hotel, a McCann Health contingent was savoring their network of the year victory—but briefly. "Winning what we've won is fabulous but Monday is tomorrow, and Monday we start planning for the next iteration," Simon Holt, chief business strategy officer, said. Many of his peers packing their suitcases were no doubt thinking the same thing.

This year's Cannes Lions Health coverage is brought to you by Klick Health. All editorial content is written and produced independently of our sponsor.