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It’s been a couple of weeks since returning from Lions Health, the world renowned festival of creativity, and I miss it. I miss the vibrant buzz and the welcoming atmosphere generated by hundreds of people who want to celebrate creativity. It truly was an incredible experience and anyone who leaves Cannes complaining about “not being shown anything new” really didn’t get what Lions Health is all about.

As this was my first time at Cannes Lions I was apprehensive, nervous, excited and a tad intimidated. Would it be cliquey? Would the pretentiousness drive me insane? Would I make some horrendous faux pas? Would it just not be as good as I had hoped? Well, it wasn’t cliquey; everyone was friendly, the venue was welcoming and there was no inter-agency animosity. Indeed I had a great chat with the guys from McCann. There wasn’t a hint of arrogance or pretentiousness. Sure, the yachts were amazing but people wandered around in shorts and polo shirts (Ralph Lauren to be precise) and I mainly saw very clever, very creative people talking, sharing, discussing and enjoying themselves.

So what is the key to Lions Health for me? If you turn up and expect to be entertained, taught and lectured you may as well stay at home. You have to get up out of your seat, explore, challenge, approach people, discuss and seek out the hidden gems. Lions Health is not for the lazy, it’s for the adventurous.

So what key takeaways did I bring back?


In order to evolve, to create new ideas, to develop appropriate and results-driven campaigns it requires bravery; not just from the marketers and creatives, but from agency heads and of course, from clients. Sometimes our expert opinions are as valuable as market research. The talk “the NHS meets Tinder; lessons from an unlikely match” by NHS, Tinder and 23Red was a great example of this.

We are the creative ones

We are paid to develop ideas, we have spent years honing our skills. We come up with ideas and let others knock them, amend them, “make them safe”. This needs to stop. We are the creative thinkers and we need to be strong in our convictions. Jeremy Perrott from McCann Health gave a passionate talk about this in “Fighting for their creative lives”, bringing in Dan Trachtenberg, a film director, and Alison Jackson, an artist, to further demonstrate his points.


It’s no good patting ourselves on the back and self-congratulating on how creative and clever we are. Creativity and innovative thinking needs to be seeded throughout an organisation and it absolutely needs to be embedded even more broadly within pharma’s mentality. It’s our job to ensure this happens. In the talk “Rebel Rebel: Can pharma ever be true innovators”, GSK talked through their project which produced the most sophisticated mobile application in respiratory care and how innovation required buy-in at all levels.

Just do it

RB & Lions Health Innovation Hack, held over 24 hours during the Lions Health weekend, highlighted that sometimes it’s best to just go for it. We have seen this with the hackathon we ran last year. In amongst all that Lions Health had to offer, three teams managed to interrogate a brief and each develop an idea to reduce the impact of pollution on children in India. A tough ask in four hours right? But these teams all came up with relevant, usable ideas that are now under evaluation for development.

Enjoy things

Our jobs are challenging, the sector we work in creates stories that can make you sad. But we have a wonderful opportunity with what we do. We get to develop campaigns that communicate and have a positive impact on people’s lives. We need to remember that sometimes. So, it was great to see the highest award accolade, the Cannes Lions Health “Grand Prix for Good”, went to an incredibly serious and important campaign delivered in a way that makes everyone smile: check out the video here.

So thank you Cannes Lions for a great few days.

If you want to watch our video diaries from Lions Health please click here.

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