After a hiatus last year due to COVID-19, Cannes Lions Health launched remotely this year for the first time. As a result, jurors had a whopping 1,400 entries to sort through, showcasing work from the last two years.

Out of the 1,400, 130 entries made it to the shortlist. Jurors then whittled that sum down further, until they arrived at two Grand Prix honorees in Health & Wellness and one in Pharma, as well as dozens of Gold, Silver and Bronze winners in both categories.

The huge volume of entries revealed several key trends to jurors Tom Richards, co-global chief creative officer at 21Grams, and Javier Rodriguez, executive creative director at VMLY&Rx Spain. Rodriguez was particularly struck by the fact that, despite the pandemic being front and center for the past 18 months, most Lions Health entries focused on issues reaching far beyond COVID, such as women’s pain and racial bias. Still, he believes the pandemic forced agencies to be more creative, given the constraints it imposed.

“It was one of the best surprises this year,” Rodriguez said. “I thought it was going to be all about COVID, but the creativity has grown because of the pandemic. Agencies had to come up with new ways of thinking.”

Here are five other Cannes Lions Health trends that struck Richards and Rodriguez as particularly telling.

Diversity and inclusion

Richards said diversity and inclusion rose to the surface in the work placed into competition this year. “What we witnessed was a pandemic within a pandemic coming through in the work,” he explained. “We saw a focus on marginalized communities, mental health issues, social issues, domestic abuse and child abuse. It was nice to see work that won actually tackling those problems.”

Rodriguez added that it wasn’t just the entries that showcased diversity and inclusion; the Health Lions jury itself was set up in a way to provide diversity of thought.

“We had a mix of PR, clients and client directors, which makes for such interesting discussions. You have such a strong diversity of thought in one room, which is inspiring,” Rodriguez said. “I am seeing it happen more and more as we all start to realize the importance of diversity of thought in creativity, especially when working in health.”


Rodriguez stressed that winning entries stood out owing in large part to their authenticity, especially in the case of Grand Prix winner WombPainStories, created by AMV BBDO for Bodyform.

“Womb Stories showcased the most wonderful use of multimedia,” Rodriguez said. “The way the film used music and animation, as well as diary shots mixed with creative artwork – it felt messy, wonderful and very real.”

Rodriguez pointed to Dante’s Heartbeats as another example of the trend toward greater authenticity. “It was a mix of emotional triggers and storylines and creative media,” he explained. “These two ads are part of a new more authentic trend and they give me goosebumps.”

Law-changing campaigns

Programs focused on societal problems fell into another category that Richards dubbed “law-changing campaigns.” Most were informed by the belief that marketing can be so powerful that it can ultimately prompt governments to change unjust laws.

“[Gold Lion winner] Face à l’inceste lobbied the government to change. That campaign was a really tricky one because in France, if a child didn’t say no, that means they consented,” he said. “That was a law that really needed to be changed and that campaign changed it.”

“The other amazing one was Tampon Book. That changed how women’s hygiene products are taxed,” Richards added.

Small ideas, massive scale

Having a small idea play out on a massive scale proved especially powerful, Richards said. By way of example, he pointed to EmpowHer, which focused on tackling unconscious bias and racism.

“It made people think so much. Hundreds of people signed up for trainings to make sure they didn’t slip into unconscious racial bias,” he noted. “When the work is amazing, it’s going to connect with our audiences and it’s going to improve lives for the better. As an industry, what could be more powerful than that?”


Both jurors agreed that much of what makes an entry powerful is its simplicity. Rodriguez noted that Cannes has historically rewarded “simple ads that hang on a great idea” and provide clarity of thought.

“You’ve got to have an idea at the heart of everything you do, and the purity and simplicity of that idea makes it connect with the world,” Richards added. “The world still needs original fresh thinking that has the power to stop you and make you think, ‘That really got a hold of me, I’m going to listen and I’m going to do something about it.’”