Awards and Events in association withCreative Circle

‘Wait, Was That Pharma?!’

Advertising Agency
New York, United States
FCB Health CCO & Pharma jury president Rich Levy on hunting for the work that surprises, blurs boundaries – and doesn’t use technology for the sake of it
For the past few years, the Pharma Lions, along with the Health Lions, have been somewhat separate from the rest of the festival, taking place on the weekend before the rest of the action kicks off. But pharma and healthcare are increasingly interesting spaces, where the work has real impact on people’s lives and is truly innovative. But the condensed schedule means that this year pharma is back in the main body of the festival. That’s why one of the things that Pharma Lions jury president Rich Levy is looking for is the work that will make people do a double take and make them rethink the category. LBB’s Laura Swinton asked him for his thoughts.

LBB> This year at Cannes, what will you be looking out for among the entries? 

RL> This is my third time on a Cannes Jury, but my first as president. Every year brings out the best in healthcare and pharma advertising.  I’m hoping to see truly life-changing creativity. Work for brands that have an extremely high level of craft and that come from an incredible idea. An idea that, once I see it, I say “damn, I wish I had come up with that idea.”

LBB> What words of guidance will you be sharing with the jury to get them in the right headspace?  

RL> For members of the pharma jury, my guidance will be to find the ideas that help propel the industry forward. Celebrate the craft. Reward making difficult choices. But, above all else, celebrate work that helps people live longer, happier, more productive lives.

LBB> Are there any other technologies that are really making waves in pharma and healthcare creativity at the moment?  

RL> Technology is just a tool to get ideas to people in different ways. AR, VR, voice activated, facial recognition are all tools. How we use them to make them unique is what will make the real waves. I can’t tell you how many VR experiences I’ve seen in the past few years that do nothing special except use a new technology. Those entries don’t win. The entries that win have a great idea and use technology to move that idea in new directions.

LBB> When it comes to innovation, the creative work done in healthcare and pharma has real potential to genuinely improve lives. Is that something the rest of the ad industry really appreciates, do you think?  

RL> The line between healthcare and non-healthcare is blurring like never before. I don’t think healthcare agencies want to think of themselves as really good healthcare agencies, but instead as really good agencies that happen to work in healthcare. 

LBB> How is the specialism evolving?  

RL> Healthcare is full of specialists.  But, unfortunately, you can be so narrowly focused that you miss the bigger picture. I love to team specialist and generalist together to see what magic they can create.

LBB> What’s your favourite example of pharma advertising ever?  

RL> Hopefully, something I will see this year. I don’t tend to look backwards. I tend to look ahead.  So, I guess my favourite would be something that’s so good, people say, “Wait, was that pharma?”

LBB> What has the prejudging process been like?
RL> There are some great ideas. Some not-so-great ideas. And some ideas that are recycled ideas from other genres from years past.  Therefore, I’d say – normal.

LBB> You’ll be spending a lot of time in the jury room but what are you looking forward to outside of the judging?  

RL> The best thing about being in the jury room is getting to know incredibly talented people from around the world.  The pharma jury is amazing this year. I can’t wait to get to know them, learn from them and celebrate the best work in the world.  Other than that – like everyone else – I’ll be spending time looking at as much work as possible.

LBB> And as well as Cannes Lions there’s the small matter of the World Cup – how do you fancy your chances this year? 

RL> I can’t wait for the World Cup.  Of course, the USA didn’t qualify this time, so I’ll be pulling for Spain.  After all, I do work for a company named FCB.
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