Marketers from around the world are preparing to descend on the French Riviera for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

The weeklong conference celebrates excellence in the realms of communications, advertising and marketing. This year’s event marks the first in-person Lions festival since 2019.

Klick Health chief creative officer Rich Levy said the return to Cannes presents an opportunity for healthcare marketers to network. He’s encouraged by the diverse juries for health and wellness and pharma, which he expects to result in more diverse shortlists and winners. 

“The one thing I’m hoping for this year is to see some actual branded pharmaceutical work be recognized,” Levy said. “There has been some nice work done by many agencies this year in the branded space, with some incredible launch campaigns, and we haven’t seen a lot of that work recognized in the past.”

From Gotcha4Life Foundation’s “Boys Do Cry” campaign.

Levy added that Cannes offers marketers the chance to get the stories behind the work and generate new ideas.

“People come to Cannes to be inspired,” he stressed. “People are coming to Cannes to see the best of the best. I’m proud that the healthcare industry is a part of the show and that our work is being celebrated just like every other work around the world.”

VMLY&R Health chief Creative Officer Auge Reichenberg agreed that healthcare marketing is enjoying a moment in the pandemic’s wake. Previously, the festival isolated Cannes Health from the broader marketing program. 

“Cannes has acknowledged the fact that health is inextricably linked to all of the other forms of communication and industries that are out there,” she said. 

A trend Reichenberg expects to see more of in Cannes is the use of music in healthcare marketing campaigns, especially ones addressing mental health. By way of example, she pointed to custom-composed songs like “Boys Do Cry” for the Gotcha4Life Foundation and “Break The Silence” for the Fala Mulher Association and Rede TV.

“I’ve been a judge and a delegate many times at Cannes and, this year, the trend in health and wellness is focused on mental health,” she said. “I’ve never seen a trend so clearly spelled out in the work that I was looking at.”

Reichenberg’s colleague Walt Geer, chief experience design officer at VMLY&R Health, said conversations around equity and diversity in healthcare have resulted in brands being “overly authentic” in how they approach consumers.

Geer referenced Vaseline’s “See My Skin” campaign, which established a skin-care database to combat bias in dermatology as an example of advertising that reaches consumers at a deeper level.

“It’s important because even with the clients that we work with, you’re seeing so much more diversity on either side of the screen,” Geer said. “We’re starting to ideate because brands have to get it right. Getting it wrong could mean lives.”

Geer added that more advertising executives are having intentional conversations about addressing the industry’s diversity shortfall.

From the Cris Cancer Center’s “The Battle Inside” campaign.

“If you’re going to have important discussions, this is the stage where it needs to happen,” he said. “We’d like to hope that when people walk off those stages, go back on their planes and go back to their homes, that these are things they take with them and integrate into their work and offices.”

Franklin Williams, director of experience design at Area 23, has noticed a growing interplay between health, wellness and gaming. Williams said that integrated gaming is coming for consumers and driving meaningful behavioral change on important health topics.

“In pharma, I expect to see inclusive work with a purpose, a byproduct of which will be seeing more work without caveats,” he explained. “The work can’t just be ‘good for pharma’; it needs to be celebrated because it’s great. If it wouldn’t win in other Lions, then I don’t feel it should win in pharma either.”

Williams said he was particularly impressed by  “The Battle Inside,” created by Cheil Spain for the Cris Cancer Foundation. The campaign reimagines the video game “Doom” as a first-person shooter with blood cancer as the enemy.

“It’s an amazing and organic integration of high science and entertainment to create an experience that delivers its message exactly where it’s needed,” he said.

Shunsuke Kakinami, executive creative director at McCann Health Japan, said he has two items on his Cannes to-do list.

“I expect to personally contribute to building meaningful criteria for the betterment of the world through pharma creativity,” Kakinami said. “How should and can pharma creative be moving forward? I’m thrilled to help define that. Second, I also expect to take in a fresh perspective from creative masters in the judging room, as one creative player.”