“We’re Not Just Dealing with Personal Illnesses Anymore; They’re Social Crises”: My Perspective from the 2018 Cannes Health & Wellness Lions Awards

When I got an invitation from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to join the judging panel of the 2018 Health & Wellness Lions Awards, I leapt at the opportunity.  (Who wouldn’t?)  When I found out later that I was one of just two female jury members from the U.S., I was particularly honored that not only would I be representing Digitas Health, but I’d be sharing an American point-of-view with my eleven fellow international panelists. On the jury we had representation from, Australia, UK, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Denmark, Brazil and Asia. In this industry, bringing that many personalities together for five days of judging can be tricky. For us, there were no egos, just passionate debates, personal and professional stories, laughter and tears, all amidst long days and nights.

As soon as we got to Cannes, we buckled down for a whirlwind week of getting to know each other and evaluating almost 1,000 entries from all over the world. The Health & Wellness category includes work that promotes non-prescription products and services, publically educates to allow self-diagnosis, and facilitates pro-active personal care. What impressed me most was that the work embodied a stunning range of global issues:  suicide, health accessibility, bullying, drink safety, crop biodiversity, opioid addiction, organ donation and much more. We’re not just dealing with fitness or personal illnesses; these are social crises, and our industry is tackling them with vigor, compassion and creativity.

There were lots of moving pictures and brands engaging in long form storytelling. I was extremely impressed with the Corazón, Give Your Heart campaign, an emotional 45-minute film advocating organ donation. We awarded it the Grand Prix and with good reason. It is a beautifully integrated campaign that fuses health and wellness into our everyday lives. It included a feature film based on a patient’s life experience that seamlessly tells the brand’s story while sparking an emotional response from viewers. The campaign was extremely effective in raising awareness — not an easy task — especially when it comes to organ donation. It made people feel something, and then made it easy for them to become part of the solution.

The entries for suicide prevention and awareness were powerful and touching. Suicide is indeed a world problem, and it was encouraging to see campaigns that boldly and graciously seek to address the issue. Across the world, the number of people, young and old, taking their own lives astonished me. Work like Project 84, a live installation in the U.K. represented the alarming statistics of male suicide, and is a poignant reminder of a real life lost, and a call to society to come together and take a stand against suicide.  This work, combined with the recent very sad news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, will ignite concern and much needed attention. 

I’m always in awe of innovative creative for the greater good and there were many simple ideas that are impactful and helping to improve so many lives. The I RESCUE campaign created playful eye masks for children that were fun to use and became an effective screening tool for Amblyopia or Lazy Eye. Equally impressive was Habitat for Humanity’s Dissolving Posters that prevent mosquito larva from breeding in Brazil.

I encourage you to check out some of the Lions award winning work. Participating on this jury was a privilege and an inspiration.

Lastly, I leave you with our Jury Motto—Don’t Judge a Judge.