Lions Health Trends From an Ocean Away

June 22,2015

When I look at new creative for the first time, I always try to get an overall feeling for the work. Later, I’ll develop a more specific understanding of what I think works and what I think doesn’t. To me, it’s that first impression—as a viewer, not as a creative director—that’s the most important. We’re asking someone to take the time to look, or listen, or both. So how will they feel? Are we telling the truth in a compelling way?

The Cannes Lions Health winners are all so new to me that I have no meaningful “creative director” critique to give just yet. I do have an overall impression, though. I feel that, by and large, these winners share a common quality: empathy.

Serious topics pose a challenge
Very often, ads in the pharma space, especially, use analogies to communicate complex messages, some simple and elegant, some less so. If I—or someone close to me—had a serious health issue, would any of these pharma ads feel like the featured companies understood our very real situation?

Many times, the attempt at a clever analogy comes at the expense of communicating something meaningful. I can understand what an anthropomorphized organ is by forlornly following someone around: there’s a problem with this particular body part and Product X can help. But I’m not going to feel any real compassion from that experience.

Winners take a different direction
The Cannes Lions Health winners in the pharma category mostly felt like they were telling stories from a caring point of view. There were a few that used CGI to animate a malady to the usual effect. Animated rosacea lesions get the idea across. Sympathy? Not so much.

In short, Pixar-esque disease depictions seem to be on the decline and stories that bring something a bit more human to the fore seem to be on the rise. This is one trend in pharma that I really hope continues.


Brian Crooks is a leading member of the Creative team and has dubbed every person in the Villanova office as creative talent. He balances contemporary digital sensibilities with traditional healthcare needs—and takes off on his motorcycle any chance he gets.

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