As I head for the second edition of the Cannes Health Lions (for the first time), I can’t help but wonder if the Health Lions have anything to teach the mainline advertising industry. Or vice versa – should healthcare advertising junta be attending the Cannes Lions or the Innovations Lions.
There was a time when mainline advertising led creativity and communication in all forms. Now, specialist advertising agencies often teach their mainline cousins a thing or two. All of us follow digital advertising awards closely to learn about the best ways to use technology in communication. But is there anything that mainline advertising can learn from counterparts in health? Here are a few things that come to mind.
Direct marketing: One-on-one conversations allow for a lot of creativity, that’s why even in mainline, the direct marketing category sees a lot of competition. In pharma or in health, when you’re reaching out to doctors, one-on-one communication is the primary medium. And the budgets per doctor are much higher than typical direct marketing budgets. Obviously then, direct marketing is one category where the Cannes Health Lions are at least a year ahead of the Cannes Lions. So watch this space to catch the direct marketing trends of the next year. In keeping with this, there were some brilliant direct marketing activities among the winners last year at the Health Lions – one that comes to mind was invitations to microbiologists that could only be viewed under a microscope. This year, we at Medulla have an entry in mobile marketing that has already won an Abby at the Goafest in the direct marketing category, against all competition, not just in health. Over 10,000 doctors across India received SMSes from our fake patients last year. Now we’re hoping to receive a real award.
Solving problems: For the last several years, Cannes and other advertising festivals/awards have been preaching and rewarding communication that goes beyond just that, to solve a problem in the life of the consumer. Health is a sector which naturally allows for problem-solving communication. That’s probably a reason that good problem-solving communication in health wins awards across sectors. Good examples are, a poster that helps patients detect retinal cancer, or the blood donation campaign led by a soccer team that removed the red in their red-and-black jerseys and filled in the colour with blood donated across the country.
Engaging the consumer: Health is a high involvement category among those suffering from a health issue but building awareness for ailments new to the consumer has always been a challenge. Communication that grabs consumer attention to build awareness has always been rewarded and can provide learnings or inspiration across sectors. A print ad we had worked on for Johnson & Johnson in India brought alive vertigo through a carousel and has already won a gold at the Rx Club Show, New York – one of only eight golds awarded across the world in these prestigious awards for creativity in healthcare. We’re now hoping it is awarded at the Cannes Health Lions as well.
And what am I hoping to learn from mainline advertising at the Cannes this year?
#1 for me is using creativity to break free. Health can be very restrictive with its regulations and focused audiences but that’s when creativity is most important. Work in health has always been winning at the Cannes Lions but with a whole Cannes festival dedicated to health, can we truly set creative trends? Just because it's health, doesn’t mean it has to be serious, doesn’t mean you can get away with lesser creativity.
With this in mind, keeping my fingers crossed for the next two days – and I’ll be back with the big learnings from these days on Monday.
(Praful Akali is founder-director, Medulla Communications, a healthcare specialist advertising agency. The two-day Health Lions festival gets underway at Cannes today, 19 June.)