The Healthcare world cup and a level playing field.

 

Me and Phil in Cannes

Me and Phil in Cannes

Having just returned from Cannes after two days of toe curling, interesting, a couple of dead boring and a few truly inspiring seminars, plus an awards ceremony that sent a very clear message to the world of pharma agencies, my over all impression is this:

Finally we get our own world cup, the top teams won with outstanding work, but the pitches need some work.

With all due respect to the Globals and the RX awards, and especially the PM awards here in the UK, this is bigger, better and tough as hell to win.

I’ll be honest, over the years my enthusiasm for awards has waned, I know it’s important to an extent, and I still like winning them and judging them but it all just seems a bit tiresome to be concerned with.

But let me tell you ladies and gents I want a Gold lion, I want that Grand Prix.

For anyone unfamiliar with the set-up there were two juries, one for pharma and one for wellness. It seemed that the pharma lot may have been a bit harsher but I don’t think the wellness team let the side down. There was great work on show and I for one came away with a renewed sense of determination to take on the big guys.

But anyone looking at the work selected from a geographic point of view might notice a worrying bias.

Having spoken to some of the jurors, there was a lot of work entered from the USA, as you would expect. However, as one of the most regulated territories, that comes with some harsh legal requirements.

By all accounts the minute what the Americans call ‘fair balance’ began at the end of the TV spots (all the stuff when the VO says that ‘this may cause anal bleeding and you could turn in to a Zebra’ etc) the jurors winced and pressed the eject button.

Now for an elitist awards jury briefed to pick work that rivals the consumer version of Cannes, that is understandable.

On the other hand you could argue that in a specially devised healthcare awards the conditions that we create work in might be understood or forgiven or at the very least allowed for, it’s part of the regulations and there is simply nothing they can do about it.

Now clearly a truly global awards system needs the USA to be a player.

The fact that Brasil, Japan and Australia fared better than most is no comment on the standard of the work on show, the winners deserved to win, but it’s hard to compete with one hand tied behind your back.

So either the Americans should be allowed to re-edit for awards or the jurors asked to disregard the legal or a huge chunk of the industry’s work will simply not show up next year and that can’t be healthy.

After all, the idea is there to be judged not the regulatory system.

That said, Langland won agency of the year and the UK is strongly regulated, and Canada had some success and their regulations make the US seem like well, Brasil.

Perhaps, like football, it’s about finding space to play in.

As far as the punditry goes the seminars were a mixed bag. But one in particular caught my eye and squished my pupil till it hurt.

It was hosted by FCB (a major USA sponsor of the festival who came away with nothing)  and the talk was about attracting new talent to the industry.

Now I’ll skip the toe curling graduate writer who encouraged us all to tell people that “we do go out for drinks and we’re not just all geeks and ‘lame'”

Well thanks Missy for that endorsement, I feel so much cooler now.

But the level playing field extends to the whole industry on this topic.

Apparently 90% of all creative students say they would only choose pharma over consumer if that was the only choice left to them.

90%? who are we being left with?

So the talent coming in to the industry is by and large less like World cup standards and more like the Conference league and that should be a worry for us all if we’re all going to be playing at the top level.

The other comment on the same seminar was from Rich Levy, chief creative officer at FCB health. A clearly smart, creative and eloquent man.

“The goal is for there to be just one Cannes…no segregation”

The problem with that as a goal, apart from missing the point spectacularly, is that Health deserves it’s own awards not because it can’t play with the big boys but we are the big boys and this is our awards. If we want to be seen as equal we have to act equal, they should be wanting to win at our awards.

The consumer lot can go fuck themselves.

I’m not sure that’s the official line but you get my drift.

Can you imagine what a group of consumer creatives would make of the stuff we do? My one reservation about the ‘Creative floor’ awards is just that. To quote a tweet from Andrew Spurgeon: “It was carnage”

I’m not surprised, and frankly I don’t need consumer creatives to judge my work to validate it.

On Saturday night a few of us Englishmen left the party early to watch the football in a small extremely hot bar. Next to us were a table full of Italians and it was all good-natured cheering and football banter, descending in to foulmouthed expletives and drunken misery until the final whistle.

England played well, but ultimately came away with nothing.

Well, if you want to compete at the highest level, it’s clear playing well will only get you so far.

http://http://www.lions-health.com/winners/2014/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 3 worst ways to judge creative

From outside the Pharma tent, you could be forgiven for thinking it all just looks like stock-shots and poor typography created by people not talented enough to make it in the big wide consumer world.

OK, controversial start.

But you and I both know that contrary to perception there is talent in them there hills.

And even clients, if asked, will say they want good creative. And some of them even actually do.

So maybe the problem is evaluating creative correctly. If you have people who don’t really understand the mechanics of communication working for the agency, then the battle is already lost.

So with that vast assumption, I give you my top three daft creative judging criteria that can kill good ideas and make me want to kill needlessly and indiscriminately with a blunt dagger.

WILLFUL MISINTERPRETATION

or

“I know it’s an orange, but if people haven’t seen it’s an orange they might think it’s an apple”

I once worked with a female creative who had a rather annoying habit of accusing you of some slight at every turn, no matter how innocent the intent.

“Do you want another drink?”

“What are you trying to say? that I can’t buy my own drinks?”

Now somebody, somewhere, will always misinterpret something. But I tend to think that so long as 9 out of 10 interpret it as intended then a little collateral damage is sustainable.

Have you sat in a creative review like this?

” so..um…are bagels a bit negative?”

“How do you mean?”

“Because of New York”

“Is New York negative?”

“Well, I mean…as in 9/11”

“yeh, I think Mark is right..we don’t want people thinking about 9/11 in an ad for diabetes, it won’t reflect well on the brand”

“Plus a 9/11 is a car and we’re a drug”

“Good point Fran”

There is not a single ad that has ever run that you couldn’t find an obscure reason why it shouldn’t have. But if you are stretching to make negative associations you can bet your target market won’t bother making them.

The only question you should ask in this situation is:

If you were actually trying to make a statement about 9/11 would you start with a bagel?

THE UNSOLVABLE CREATIVE PROBLEM

Or

But what if nobody reads the headline?

management-trainee_48 copy

By and large, a good concept should be the perfect blend of headline and visual. (I’m sticking with print as it’s easier) If you can cover either one up and the ad still works then one of them is redundant.

The late David Abbott’s famous Economist ad ‘ I never read the Economist’ – Management trainee aged 42 – would not have been any better for seeing a tubby, balding man of 42.

And I’m pretty sure the famous Silk Cut campaign would not have been improved by a line saying ‘ the silkiest cut of them all’ or something. The visual did everything it needed to on its own.

Sometimes they face the world alone and sometimes they rely on each other to make sense. Just like the rest of us.

Meanwhile some people still think they have a serious point to make.

“But what if nobody reads the line…then it’s just a picture of a pig on a pogo stick”

“I think Gareth has a point…if I didn’t read the line I wouldn’t understand it”

That’s sort of like saying a French film was shit because you don”t speak French.

Very often, to my horror, I have found that even creative research (in pharma) seems to think the measure of a good idea is to judge it independently of a headline. And sometimes the reverse. Now, as I have said, not every idea needs both, but that shouldn’t be the only judgement. (The other thing that drives me nuts is the propensity for taking one successful line and shoving it on a totally different visual idea and assuming that is the perfect solution)

When faced with a creative problem that nobody can solve, very often there is no problem in the first place.

A NEGATIVE ISN’T ALWAYS A NEGATIVE

Or

Can we change the line from ‘smoking causes cancer’ to ‘live life to your best potential’?

I know that everyone wants to portray a positive image especially when it’s connected to a brand. But a positive image isn’t only ever attained by being positive.

No, really.

It’s not enough to employ a blanket ban when judging concepts. Like everything, there are exceptions. Sometimes showing you understand the real problem that patients face, or the new science that changes the understanding of a disease, involves communicating that carrying on prescribing the ‘old’ way is lagging behind.

I remember sitting next to a colleague at the PM awards while we watched as a certain Windsor based agency went up for the gazillionth time to collect an award for a campaign that intelligently portrayed ‘the problem’.

“I don’t get it…they’re just showing the problem…everyone has the same problem” and to a point he had a point, but if you can own that problem then you can own the solution too.

Revisiting that Economist ad, can you imagine what it would have looked like in the wrong hands?

“Yes, Dave…er…love love love the idea but it’s got a bit of a negative vibe, couldn’t we give it a bit of a switcheroo round to a positive? Like…and I’m not a creative but “I always read the Economist – Managing Director aged 16.”

Personally, I can never look at that Economist ad and not feel a twinge of guilt that I should be reading the magazine.

And isn’t that what the best ideas make us do? change our behaviour? Think? act? Negative or not.

So next time you’re wondering how to evaluate an idea remember it may be worth bearing in mind how not to judge it.

Or is that too negative?