Pharma? Everything’s looking Rose

What you can guarantee is that everyone has an opinion about the Lions awards, but what nobody can say about this year’s batch is that it doesn’t represent what we do every day.

It’s just that maybe we don’t all do award winning work every day.

Most of us strive and get really really close, and it’s that striving to push the boundaries of Pharma that keeps our clients on an upward creative trajectory. It improves their businesses and ours and more importantly helps patients too.

If you didn’t succeed this year, I’m sorry but Cannes is pretty bloody tough.

If it helps, you can feel comforted by the fact that actually it’s all just puffery and nonsense and it doesn’t really matter.

Unless you win of course.

Also, even as a judge this year I watched as my agency’s work was flashed on screen, heard some positive giggles from the room, raising my expectations momentarily, then caught out of the corner of my eye someone giving it a three and realised it would never be seen again. That was what we call disappointment in real time.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Being a small cog in the Lions, you quickly realise the whole judging experience at Cannes is about as well oiled as a machine can be.

You are scooped up from Nice airport and whisked Cannes-ward in air-conditioned luxury, deposited at what is a very nice hotel, handed, rather MI5 style I must say, a box complete with instructions, passes and lanyards and a Gold note book. This is stationary porn at it’s finest.

It bodes well.

A welcome drink on the Carlton beach follows. It’s a strange little soiree in so much that this is the week prior to the festival kicking off and the streets of Cannes are devoid of the heavyweight creative cognoscenti, it was just a few old codgers, some prostitutes and a few teenagers smoking on a bench.

It reminded me of the first couple of years of Lions health.

Time to mingle.

Hello, what jury are you on?

Oh Design? cool.

Me?….no pharma…no not farmer…pharma…..PHARMACEUTICALS.

Yes, that’s right, like pills and stuff.

Next morning at 8:30am we are met at the hotel by our Cannes ‘rep’ who, rather than telling us about local tourist attractions or the all-inclusive sunset barbeque, is tasked with rounding us up and escorting us to the main building within the Palais. She then facilitates the whole judging process.

This is not as straightforward as you might think.

I mean, we are ten creatives (full grown adults mind you) all trying to organise ourselves without the aid of a producer or account person, this is complicated stuff! Literally every morning someone was late, overslept or simply thought we were meeting an hour later.

Our group was an eclectic mix: a couple of white middle aged admen (guilty as charged) Brazilian superstars, Mexican rock stars, Indian gurus, Singaporean hotshots, American glitterati, German wunderkinds and a ‘fab one’ from Liverpool.

And so we are led in to a small meeting room with a lovely view of the azure sea and a coffee machine it takes at least six of us to figure out how to work. This is a step up, we are told, usually it’s a windowless dark room and air con cold enough to freeze all extremities.

The air-con remained.

The first day we are treated to an explanatory video which spells out the system and how the judging works. This was preceded by a visit from Terry Savage himself, the festival CEO. There is something to this nominative determinism lark, I thought to myself, as he cut an intimidating figure announcing in a gravelly Aussie accent “weer gowin to show you a veedeo bud if it carmes from me it hes more menice”.

We duly sat up straight and paid attention.

The first two days are basically this: See the work, judge from one to nine. 1-3 is not on the shortlist, 4-6 possibly a shortlist, 7-9 definitely a shortlist and possibly a medal.

Depending on the category some entries have a different method to judge them using the above criteria. A mix of percentages for idea, strategy, execution and results.

No discussion. Press the number on the tablet.

Next.

The reason for this is clear, and used by other awards shows too. Once you’ve got a shortlist you can then start talking about the work that needs talking about.

Interestingly this system is largely up to the current jury president to shape, this year we were led magnificently by the awesome Rich levy CCO of FCB Health who, having experienced a previous system where they talked about every piece of work right from the get-go, went with this no-chat approach. The problem with the ‘discuss everything’ method is that you can end up at 2am every night debating work you hate or don’t think should even be in the pharma category.

So, thanks to Rich we were able to get a reasonable day’s work in and were away early enough for some jury dinners in the old town.

Day three and the discussions begin. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Let’s get some heated debates going.

Our room was directly next to the Health and Wellness lot. All day we would hear sporadic bouts of hysterical laughing coming through the partition wall. Maybe they were just a funnier lot than us. Maybe the work was hilarious.

So, what’s up next? Yep more Cancer videos. Great.

Once we have a rudimentary shortlist, what you instantly realise is that some great work you definitely saw hasn’t been voted on to it. This is the point where we each get to bring something back.

What you hope is that someone will bring up that work your agency did, because you can’t.

Nope.

Oh well.

What does happen is that if any agency in your group has work shortlisted it gets you some instant sun on the terrace while they talk about it.

The view from the terrace.

This year CDM New York won a Silver for Zac’s Play Day a beautiful and perfectly executed children’s book explaining to children and those around them what living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy can be like.

I was very proud, but I never heard a word discussed about it other than to see it keep popping up on the list. Then some handshakes when they’d decided the medal.

I took all the credit naturally.

Cannes are very hot on subterfuge, collusion and basic skullduggery. There’s an algorithm built in to the tablet voting system that recognises any anomalies. Different voting signs post-lunch with fellow jurors that might be reciprocal, or pre-planned tactical voting..everyone else thinks it’s a shortlist but you gave it a one? it all shows up.

Not that any skullduggery would reflect well on you or Cannes. The pressure at Cannes is to try and find and reward the best work for the category and the show as a whole. There is a mild paranoia about letting the side down for Pharma, so as a team we were determined to keep the standard up there for Cannes, not just Pharma. I think we did that.

Sunday, the last day, is medals day.

We all were rubbing our hands with the anticipation as well as trying to stay warm in the minus 6c temperature.

This was the day that felt most like the famous James Stewart movie, 12 angry men.

Apart from the fact we were ten not twelve, male and female and really quite even tempered.

What I never realised in previous years was that you are given a quota to guide you. 10 bronze, 7 silver and 5 Gold.

This may answer your question as to why one piece can’t win several golds in different categories. Or if it does it swamps everything like last year’s Immunity Charm.

This quota isn’t set in stone. But, like  a wish from a Genie, if you give a Gold you can’t downgrade it. If you give a bronze you can always return to it and vote again and upgrade it. This way you start off cautious and slowly build your big winners out of your medals shortlist.

Some entries began the day as a shortlist and ended up Gold, one stayed Gold all day. Some stayed where they were despite the best efforts of their champions.

You also have the ability to group two or three campaign entries as one, so long as they all are entered in the same category, thus awarding all the ideas and saving yourself some of your quota.

We each had our favourite, and I kinda relished the challenge of lobbying support for a piece of work I liked. The others groaned every time I brought it up. It ended up a Silver, which in the end I think might have been fair.

The thing is, as we kept saying, Silver at Cannes is fucking good. (And actually, so is a bronze and a shortlist.)

But also, and surprisingly to myself, I came round to some pieces championed by others that I had initially disliked. This is what the jury room can do to you. Some amazingly intelligent and talented and highly awarded people persuading you of the entries brilliance, I found myself in the unusual position of ‘client’ to someone’s passionate creative director role. Okay, I’ll buy your argument.

I guess that’s why we are all there. I learned a lot.

And so on Sunday night, you emerge in to the soft evening sunlight, bleary eyed and nursing a nice new summer cold thanks to the air con.

But this year no Grand Prix in Pharma.

Okay, a note on that.

I promise you, had you been on the jury you wouldn’t have awarded one either.

The Golds we did award were truly great but the one thing that got us all excited was ineligible. (Blink to speak) And there was nothing else to compare. So you can’t just go with something you don’t feel is up to it.

So, is pharma destined to be constantly the bridesmaid and never the bride?

I don’t think so. This year the category changes have made real pharma work come out of it’s shell, for once not fighting with Pro Bono or spurious health based activation projects.

The standard of craft is now hitting the mark, and now all it will take is one sublime idea. And there were fifteen of the top Pharma companies represented in the shortlist, so the groundwork is there.

This was truly, what we do every day. Or at least could have been.

Will it be from your agency next year? Now there’s no reason why not.

I believe the Holy Grail is still the Grand Prix for branded work. Maybe that is too much to hope for but we all need dreams.

I’ll leave you with the some final pleas/tips on behalf of next year’s jurors.

1. It’s not enough to win at Cannes just because you entered it. Ten to twenty category entries isn’t going to make it any better. Buddy, it’s still just a woman in a pool. In fact you lessen your chances with each entry. 4 max!

2. You need an idea. It can be small, but you still need an idea. Some stickers won this year.

3. Funny can win too. Check out the Wrestler.

4. That idea you really like but aren’t sure could win? enter it anyway. One of the jurors might spot it, love it and make it theirs.

5. Make sure your case film hits the nub of what makes it special. People in the case film saying it’s great doesn’t count.

6. Probably avoid putting the Art Director and writer in the case vid. (see point 5)

7. Some great results really help. Jurors will spot bullshit results. It doesn’t have to be global PR coverage but if you enter it a year early you may weaken your chances. There were a lot of ‘we’re hoping for big things!’ which is hard to put up against concrete figures. Wait till you’ve got the big things to talk about.

8. If Cannes recommend you put it in the H&W category not pharma but you insist you want the pharma jury to decide, then don’t be surprised if the jury doesn’t think it’s pharma either.

9. Craft counts.

10. Go big or go small. Don’t go medium.

 

If you have any gripes, or questions about why your work didn’t shortlist in Pharma or why certain work did, feel free to ask questions in the box below.

Because of the way WordPress works I have to approve the question before it shows on the site, but I will try and answer as best I can (and if I can remember it). If you really really are curious it might help, or maybe it might be best to let sleeping dogs lie

Up to you.

Until next time dear reader.

 

 

 

 

The LIA awards get Healthy.

Back in May I received one of those emails you cannot ignore. “Dear Olly, we would like you to be a judge in the inaugural Health and Wellness category at the LIA (London International) awards in Las Vegas in October.”

Hotels and flights paid for.

Hmm, let me think for a moment.

To be honest, the LIA awards could have been judging the Lactose-free Inkjet Awards or the Lazy Imbecile Awards and I would still have signed up.

Leaving aside, for the moment, why an awards show that has resided in the middle of a Nevada desert for the last ten years is called the London International Awards, it did seem like an opportunity too good to miss.

Pharma and Health and Wellness continues to come of age, thanks in no small part to the likes of our Jury President – Jeremy Perrott, Global Chief Creative Officer at McCann Health, pushing our often reluctant industry in to the limelight where it belongs. The LIA awards are another step to being part of the genuine adland gang.

Indeed Healthcare is where the action is these days.

The glee of this invitation lasted right up until this week when the tragic shooting took place and turned the town known for its partying and freedom of spirit in to a bloodbath.

I cannot write about the relatively frivolous activity of judging creative work without mentioning it, because as these events often do, it puts everything momentarily in to perspective.

Anyway, let’s hope America gets a short break before the next NRA funded terror attack happens.

And so it is I found myself last Wednesday in a cab driving past the shimmering Mandalay Bay hotel travelling through a town with 30 degree heat, to sit in a darkened room for three days looking at some of the best work in health and wellness over the last 18 months.

So why do we need another awards show?

Well, what the LIAs isn’t about is huge cabannas on the beach with tech company logos dominating the skyline. It’s not a trade show, indeed it’s not even an awards show in the traditional sense.

The LIAs is palpably about creative awards, celebrating ideas and new innovative thinking ( they dropped the ‘advertising’ from the awards title in 2004 to recognise how the business had changed).  Set up by the founder of the Clios, Barbara Levy, the money from your entries goes in to funding young creatives and account people to come to Las Vegas and learn from the big names across the industry. It’s putting something back, which has to be admired.

Isn’t that better than an international show where no international people show up to collect their award and everyone just gets wasted?

Ok don’t answer that.

It’s aim is to be a genuine rival to Cannes (in terms of kudos at least) and if the level of judging is anything to go by, it already is.

Our first day was pretty brutal. I’ll take you through the deal.

Seven judges from around the world, including Japan, Sydney, Sau Paulo and Toronto with around 240 Health and Wellness entries to separate, the first task was to sort the wheat from the chaff. A large screen displays the entries and we are furnished with a small ipod with an in, out or abstain choice for each hopeful. First day is no talking, just watching.

After ten hours of tinkling piano and ernest voice overs you emerge in to the desert twilight suffering from compassion fatigue. What might have seemed an appropriate peice of music for a heart wrenching story when you were editing your case film a few weeks ago now seemlessly joins up with the next case film and the next heart wrenching story producing an end result that is like watching a sort of eight hour long, disjointed Swedish Independent film.

Day two comes and some discussion creeps in. The ipods now have a numbered scoring system which you mark from 1 to 10 depending on your affection for the concept.

The cut off point is arbitrary to an extent but we began by looking at everything that got above 60% with the ability to ‘rescue’ any forgotten or overlooked soldiers.

It then becomes clear who has a passion for what. I’d say generally most people agree on the big stuff, the zingers. It gets harder to agree when the work is just really good. Is that animation good but the idea a bit unoriginal? Does that campaign belong in the same gang as the others in its category? Does that endline let it down? Is this just a cool looking film but with a flimsy idea at its heart?

At some award shows you are desperately looking for something half decent to award, here – as in Cannes, the half decent doesnt get a look in.

By the end of day two we managed to get a good shortlist narrowed down. Then the next task was to choose what would medal and what wouldn’t.

It’s amazing how long this stuff takes. Personally, when I judge I want to be my own devils advocate and ask the questions that might expose a leak where other campaigns are watertight.

These tiny flaws are what make the difference between Gold Silver or Bronze. Sometimes it might be whether the intent of a great film is actually met. For instance it might be a stunning commercial but does it work as a fund raising machine as intended? It might be an incredible peice of innovation but does it have a legitimate role. Conversely, does it matter if the idea is hard to detect but the work moves me anyway?

Day three was a totally new experience.

The organisers wanted the aforementioned junior creatives and account handlers ( aged between 21 and 30) to sit in on the session when we chose the medal winners.

So about 30 fresh faced young’uns shuffled in and sat quietly (almost) for the whole day as we debated and voted.

I’ll admit that this was a bit weird for probably all of us. But after a while it became a bit like a viewing gallery in a surgical theatre, you just got on with the work and the debating.

It’s also fair to say that at first these whippersnappers also were not that keen on observing a health and wellness jury. I mean, who on earth wants to join a healthcare agency right?

Who wants healthcare briefs when they could be selling sugar to children?

Well, if nothing else I can honestly say that the work selected as winners in our category proved to be as stunning and inspiring as any consumer category at any show anywhere in the world.

One kiddiwink even admitted at the end of the question and answer section that she felt so impressed at the kind of work that’s possible that she had to apologise to us for her initial, albeit silent, prejudice.

But then that’s how we all feel isn’t it?

From the outside our business just looks like a bunch of press ads with headlines about tolerability and efficacy doesn’t it?

Ok, don’t answer that.

But from the inside the jury room at the LIAs, Health is looking more and more like the most exciting gig in town.

Check out the winners in November and the shortlist published here, and start thinking about getting involved for next year.

Because the LIAs have arrived and for the first time, what happens in Vegas, isn’t staying there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haute couture on the Cotes d’azure

Arriving last weekend at Cannes Lions I was struck by the level of new technology and interactivity on show.

In real time, you can interact with 3-dimensional people and experience what looks like an actual talker talking on a stage about social media, while you yourself can actually be on social media.

#amazing!

I know I was waving my arms around like an idiot trying to touch things that were in front of my face before Phil told me that they actually were in front of my face.

VR can be confusing.

On Saturday morning most of the London creative fraternity were busy experiencing a virtual reality ‘hangover’ that accurately represented the clawing fug and pain of ‘going large’ on the first night.

It’s amazing what can be done these days.

Meanwhile the awards were the talking point around most of the ‘interactivity pods’ conveniently located in nearby restaurants.

The usual concerns of the work being ‘nothing like what we actually do day to day’ seemed to be a recurring theme again this year.

But does it matter?

Not for me.

There are plenty of awards systems around the world that honour the work we do every day, but what Cannes offers, much like Paris in the Spring and Autumn, is a glimpse of the unattainable.

Think of the work we celebrate on the Croisette like the Haute Couture shows of Paris, Milan, London and New York that parade the ludicrous, the outrageous, the frocks that look like biscuits and the shorts made of concrete – in the name of fashion.

These are not clothes for anyone to actually wear.

Nobody goes around in a pair of trousers that look like two wet fish, but what happens slowly over the course of the year is that fishscale styling appears, biscuit emblems on T-shirts emerge and concrete looking fabric creeps in to the high street.

Cannes is about inspiration. And that’s to be applauded. Who cares if it’s all a bit dodgy?

One CD from Brasil that I was chatting to said he knew of a winning campaign that the agency devised two weeks before the closing date, found a client and got it to run. (does any work actual ‘run’ anymore?)

What he really meant was they got some people to try it out, filmed them using it, put it on twitter and got some PR around it. That’s ‘running’ these days.

So be it. Maybe we all need to play the game. Ideas have transcended traditional media across the advertising landscape. If you are still doing old fashioned branded ad campaigns you are effectively ruling yourself out of the gongs.

My advice to you is get some cool technology and find a way to link it with your brand. Rembrandt and Banking, its an obvious connection. Rembrandt was a painter and the banks now own all his work.

Okay that’s the positive.

What about the less than positive. ( 5 years in healthcare and the word negative has been beaten out of me)

It’s the weasling notion of the ‘healthification of everything.’

I know it sounds cool and inclusive, but hold on a bloody buggering moment.

I don’t care about consumer agencies muscling in, let them come, but what constitutes a health care or wellness campaign these days?

Surely it should be about the target market?

One excellent campaign was for a paint brand that linked colour to colour-blindness. They made a set of glasses that ‘cured’ people’s affliction. (more accurately – ‘appropriated’)

Fair enough you may think, that’s healthcare.

But if they are targeting the colour-blind as a target market in its own right it seems a rather small market for a paint manufacturer.

Like a pill sold by Stella Artois that reproduces the effects of a hangover for the tee-total, so they can feel as shit as the rest of us on a Sunday morning. They’re still not buying any pints.

(In fact I may pitch that to them)

What is more likely, and even admirable from an advertising point of view, is that they are using the glasses to be inspiring about colour. But let’s be honest here, in so doing they are….well, just flogging paint.

And fair play to them, but fuck off and do it in the consumer categories!

Surely a healthcare campaign, be it from a consumer agency or not should be defined by its attempt to target a patient or HCP market?

The healthification of everything could, by a more cynical blogger than myself, become just a backdoor entry to the Lions Health awards by any old product that can find a quasi-medical angle.

Cars with auto-parking: save lives. Bottles of water: cure dehydration. The lawnmower: reduces hayfever. The Bluetooth speakers: Reduce wire based accidents in the home.

Nevertheless, this is all mere trifles.

I continue to find Cannes inspiring, infuriating and challenging in equal measures.

So what is still the real challenge of lions health?

A Grand Prix from a branded pharma campaign. Or is that just insane?

If so, I could probably enter the entry in some category for mental health.