Lions Health takeaways: Beyond the ad, inspiration and what is pharma, anyway?

Hanging on the wall in the gallery of short-listed work, the "VR Vaccine" campaign for Brazilian healthcare provider Hermes Pardini helped kids receive injections with less anxiety and pain.

The high-profile centerpiece of Cannes Lions Health might be the awards themselves, but while winners pack trophies into their baggage, everyone else mentally files images, thoughts and ideas. They may be concrete—such as the winning campaigns—or more abstract, like that nebulous feeling we call “inspiration.”

The Grand Prix for Good winner “Immunity Charm” may have been the most talked-about campaign of the festival, closely followed by “The Fin,” both of which took marketing far beyond the typical. For “Immunity Charm,” McCann Health New Delhi tapped into Afghanistan’s long tradition of beaded baby bracelets to create a vaccine record right on every child’s wrist, to help doctors keep track of immunizations without the hard-copy records that mothers might forget or lose before coming to a clinic.

“The Fin,” a J. Walter Thompson effort on behalf of Northwell Health, showcased the healthcare system’s veterans care by 3D-printing an amphibious prosthetic leg, which allowed a Marine who lost his leg to swim with his children. The idea for the device came from the agency, which brought it to a Northwell scientist who’d been using the 3D printer to create stem cells.

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Those two campaigns had agencies and pharmas talking about taking the same approach themselves. And it’s not too much of a stretch for drugmakers: One other problem-solving effort—a virtual reality system that made shots more palatable for kids—could just as well have been developed by a vaccinemaker as the healthcare provider that actually made it happen.

FiercePharma chatted with some festivalgoers about their own takeaways from the festival, from new ways of thinking about the pharma industry’s approach to communication to new ways of using data to a new definition of creativity that’s emerging for pharma and the marketers who work with them.

Carey Reynolds, director of marketing, Restasis consumer in the U.S., Allergan
“The best part about being here at Lions Health is it’s so invigorating because it’s such a hotbed of creativity and innovation and the best of the best creative minds are here. It’s just very inspirational, so I can’t wait to go back and plug a little bit of that inspiration into my team and really just take it to the next level.”

Jo Ann Saitta, chief digital officer, Omnicom Health Group
“What I’m taking back from MedTech Expo this weekend is a lot, I’ve gotten a chance to meet a lot of amazing agencies, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies. We’ve seen a lot of interest in data. Folks are interested in how do we use data and how do we make it look more appealing, creative, and visual, so that’s been a tremendous takeaway.

"Virtual reality and augmented reality have been a huge interest, from helping people really get over phobias to helping physicians and patients really understand a disease state in cardiovascular, for example, or a specific therapy. Then thirdly, I’d say has been the interest in emerging technologies.”

R. John Fidelino, executive director of creative, InterbrandHealth
“This year’s festival is one of the most interesting for me because we were actually in the jury room shaping how pharma should be judged. And in fact, defining for ourselves and hopefully for the future how to think about and what constitutes this category.

"Which may include pharma but also medical devices or health systems—anywhere where healthcare providers are communicating to patients. We’re extremely excited about the work that was pushed forward, but for me personally, how many challenges we’re facing as an industry to be heard, to be understood, and to communicate about ourselves.”

Ritesh Patel, chief digital officer, WPP Health & Wellness
"The best thing I saw was exactly what won the Grand Prix for Good, which is this bead system that was created in Afghanistan. The problem was the mothers weren’t coming to the clinics to get their kids vaccinated because they were losing the vaccination cards, they were nomadic going from one doctor to another and the next doctor didn’t really know what the other doctor had done.

"As the digital guy, I was amazed at the analog solution that was put together, which was a set of beads that were added to a charm bracelet given to a baby at birth which is a tradition in Afghanistan. The baby is given this thing that wards off evil on this side of the beads, and then as you get vaccinated each one of these [other] beads represents a specific vaccination—polio, meningitis, etc. I call it the first wearable I’ve seen for the Third World.”

Graham Mills, global chief creative officer, Publicis Health
“I’m going to take back the idea that creativity in healthcare is changing—it’s very different, it’s a new type of creativity, it’s not just about doing great advertising. It’s about having great ideas, creating new experiences, creating new products and new ways of helping people get better.

“This is something I definitely take back because the Immunity Charm is a really amazing piece of thinking. A) It’s so simple, it’s easy and making a huge difference in the world. I think the other thing is that it’s a really novel solution. This is about data tracking, and normally we’d use all kinds of sophisticated stuff. But it’s actually a little piece of string and some beads is a perfect data tracking tool.

"One of my favorite things is the Fin, which is a prosthetic leg that you can walk and swim in. That was an agency that took that to a client as an answer to a client brief. I think that is fantastic. It’s coming back, maybe asked to do an ad, but come back with something very different. I think that’s the type of creativity that’s going to propel health and pharma forward.”

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.