June Laffey on Cannes Lions 2017

By Eliza Williams

CR: What are you hoping to see in the Health category this year?

JL: Diversity in ideas across multiple disease states. Some years there seems to be a major focus on just one or two areas or channels e.g. lots of apps, lots of ideas around MS – many of them overlapping or having a sameness about them.

I’m hoping to see ideas that really can save lives or positively impact on quality of life. It’s always most exciting of all when you see creative thinking that you know can make a difference and empower people to live a better life. The pharma jury is there to judge the more regulated work and I’m hoping to see entrants respect the restrictions of the categories with their entries. I have sat on juries in the past where I’ve had to ask ‘is this really health?’ and I’m not expecting to have to ask that question at Cannes.

CR: How important is creativity in health advertising? Is it an industry that is embracing creativity, in your view?

JL: There is no area more important than health for creative thinking. It can inspire, educate, remind, aid compliance, influence and at its purest and best, creativity can empower, change and save lives. With people living longer and downward pressure from government and regularity bodies to save money, there is a danger that the first thing to suffer will be marketing budgets. However, in tough times creative thinking across the board is even more important.

CR: Are there too many awards in Cannes Lions?

JL: I can only really speak from a health point of view, and I think no, there are not too many. The guys at Cannes have worked really hard this year to tighten the definition of pharma versus health and wellness. This distinction is crucial as we need to protect pharma from becoming inundated with more general health entries. The fact is so much of pharma is highly regulated, so it must be judged like for like. The work the guys have been doing will definitely help with this this year.

CR: Do you think Cannes Lions is consistent in reflecting the best of the ad industry?

JL: Absolutely. But I think it’s not just a reflection, it’s a viewing mirror to the future. What’s really great about Cannes, specifically for health, is it is providing a world showcase for what can be achieved in this highly regulated area. Mobile technology, wearables, virtual reality – these and many more different technologies and approaches to creative thinking are providing opportunities to develop life-saving ideas, and new ways to tackle real human issues.

The health communications industry, with the help of top-rate creative shows like Cannes, is attracting curious young minds, and top-level creative thinkers who want to just do good. Which can only be good, right?

CR: Diversity has been a hot topic for the last few years in advertising – do you see change happening in this area? If not, what more should be done?

JL: I believe change is happening, but of course it’s never fast enough. Diversity of age, culture, experience and sex will almost inevitably lead to a more considered and valid results in a jury room. But it’s equally important, if not more important, for diversity to be a part of life in our agencies. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said we are spiritual beings having a human experience. l believe it is this human experience that makes us all interesting and therefore makes the work interesting. As humans, we all possess many qualities, but some qualities are stronger in men than in women and vice versa. We are different, but different doesn’t equate to either inferior or superior.

When it comes to women, there are far too few women leaders in our industry. But a woman shouldn’t need to act like a man to be recognised and to succeed. When our industry truly recognises and embraces the different qualities that women possess (such as authenticity, optimism, passion, confidence, compassion and not being afraid to ask for support), I believe our industry will be stronger and the work will be better.

The Cannes Lions festival takes place from June 17-24; canneslions.com

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