New rules for Cannes Lions Health could mean more pharma winners

Cannes Lions Health jury presidents R. John Fidelino and Rich Levy discuss the upcoming festival and ad show. (Beth Snyder Bulik)

Will pharma creativity get a push from Cannes Lions Health? The creative awards festival has drawn distinct lines between the pharma and health and wellness categories heading into its fifth year this summer, potentially clearing the way for more branded pharma winners.

For the first time, companies will be required to enter ads in either the health and wellness category or the pharma category but will not be allowed to enter both competitions.

“Ninety percent of the work we do day in and day out clearly falls into the regulated or nonregulated pharma space. It’s the day-to-day work that we do that's sometimes difficult to judge in an awards show when it’s going up against work that was done in a nonregulated space. So I’m really looking forward to that this year,” Rich Levy, chief creative officer of FCB Health and head of the pharma jury for 2018, said.

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However, both Levy and health and wellness jury chief R. John Fidelino, executive creative director at InterbrandHealth, said at a recent Cannes briefing session that ultimately, it's the creativity and effectiveness of the work that will determine the winners.

RELATED: Cannes Lions Health 2018 features 2 veteran U.S. marketing executives as jury chiefs

“I think the changes will help, but at the end of the day, it’s about the work,” Levy said. Fidelino agreed, adding, “The whole point of this is to push creative in healthcare.”

During the meeting at Interbrand in New York, both also spoke to the importance of pharma clients attending. Levy cited as an example a Bayer client who attended with him and went away with new thinking and ideas about creativity in pharma marketing. The client later invited Levy to speak about it to a wider group of Bayer employees.

“I would love to see more clients experience Cannes because it does change the way they look at work and the way they approve work,” Levy said.

RELATED: At Cannes Lions Health, pharma again falls short of Grand Prix standard

The Cannes Lions Health festival will run concurrently with the broader Cannes festival on June 18 and 19, during the first two days of the five-day event. While Levy and Fidelino are both hoping for quality pharma entries—and the potential awarding of a pharma top award or Grand Prix—the two also lamented the temporary absence of Publicis Health as a contender. Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun last June took the cost-cutting measure of banning all its agencies for one year from participation in paid shows, such as Cannes, South by Southwest and the Consumer Electronics Show. Publicis has since said it will return to Cannes in 2019.

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