Thoughts from Andrew Spurgeon, ECD at Langland UK ahead of judging the inaugural Lions Health awards in Cannes.
‘Are you going?’ Every year of my career I’ve been asked that question.
If you’re in the advertising business you’ll know that this enquiry needs no further explanation. Like celebrity names, only the scantest of clues are required for you to know precisely who or what is being referred to. And despite having evacuated from ‘mainstream’ advertising (whatever that means these days, anyway) more than 6 years ago, Adland mates still ask me if they’ll see me ‘down there.’
To be perfectly honest, I’ve only been to Cannes twice. I was either too far away, too busy or the agency I was at was too skint to make the investment in both time and money. It wasn’t until I got to JWT London, where I discovered that attending Cannes was virtually written into senior creative people’s contracts, that I actually got to go.
And what did I think? Well, your enjoyment of Cannes is relative to the amount of work you can put in. If you have stuff on the shortlist, Cannes transforms itself from being very, very intimidating, to becoming friendly and involving. But having the work to enter is critical, otherwise you do feel like a bit of an outsider – fit only to drown your sorrows at the Gutter Bar and talk about all of those brilliant campaigns your global FMCG client would never buy. If you worked on brands like that, and especially if you did it on an international basis, it was genuinely tough to win at Cannes.
This, of course, has also been true of work done in the healthcare sector. But things change. Perhaps, on reflection, three specific things have changed. Actually, make that four. Number one, the standard of work done in health and wellness has improved and it has improved rapidly. Secondly, digital is providing the opportunity to be recognised on a much bigger stage. With that comes the need to up your game, in content and delivery terms. So now we see a massive increase in the quantity and quality of film-based storytelling, digital design and development, along with new ways to reach healthcare professionals and ordinary people. Thirdly, health (and its related issues) seems to have become fashionable amongst the wider industry. With many mainstream agencies doing their best to make work that gives something back to humanity that’s a bit deeper than a brighter smile. And finally, big shows are rewarding these efforts with some of their most coveted prizes, bringing us neatly to Lions Health.
As a judge at this year’s inaugural event, the first thing I have to say is that this is being done properly. The Festival has quite literally put its money where its mouth is, and rolled out the full Cannes Lions experience. I have felt consulted and involved for what must now be the past six months, and the Festival Team’s professionalism and attention to detail has been impressive. This appears to have been repaid by a solid uptake by the industry with entries in numbers that I think must surpass the current healthcare-specific show competition.
The seminars also look well thought out, and designed to set a foundation for future events, where I’m sure the organisers are hoping to see an increasing number of client companies in attendance.
In short, standards and expectations are high.
It now comes down to the two juries to decide where the creative bar will be set. No surprises from me here, as ever, I do not want to see any (ANY) middling, mediocre work scrape in on a sick note that says this is such a difficult category. I don’t want any part of that, and I hope my fellow jurors are with me when it comes to setting the standard that our industry will then have to follow.
Cannes isn’t something you can fudge, it’s the world’s highest profile creative awards show. Everybody will be watching. That everybody will include the mainstream agencies and networks. It will even include representatives from the United Nations, for God’s sake!
We’re all exposed. It could go very well or just end up confirming what most people really think anyway; that you can’t do good work in healthcare.
I’m nervous, but in a good way.
Andrew Spurgeon is Executive Creative Director at Langland, the world’s most creatively awarded healthcare advertising agency. He is a jury member on the inaugural Pharma Jury at this year’s Lions Health.