An Insider’s Look at the Lions Health Festival—Q&A With Andrew Spurgeon, ECD at Langland

The first ever Lions Health event took place earlier this month at the famous Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France. More than 800 people from 50 countries gathered to hear presentations from several innovators within the industry as well as celebrate some of the world’s best healthcare communications. In total, 66 Lions were awarded from over 1,400 entries across Pharma and Health and Wellness categories. One of the event’s top prizes, the Agency of the Year, went to U.K.-based Langland. PM360 spoke with Andrew Spurgeon, Executive Creative Director at Langland, about taking home the top prize and his overall experience at the inaugural event.

Lion Health Awards Cermony
Andrew Spurgeon (right) with Philip Chin, Langland’s Chief Executive and Founder, picking up the Gold Lion for their work with Bayer. 

Congratulations on being named the Agency of the Year at Lions Health. What do you think makes your agency unique and worthy of this award?

I’ll start by saying what I always say about Langland, and that is: We are an ad agency first, and a healthcare specialist second. What matters most to us is the quality of our work, and everybody here shows up to make that work as good as it can be. It’s not that the category is incidental, but we totally do not see it as an obstacle to doing something great.

Can you explain how the Agency of the Year is chosen? I understand it is a points-based system.

Cannes Lions awards points for entries that make the shortlist, or go on to win trophies. Langland was the most shortlisted agency this year, and the addition of four individual Lions gave us a higher score than any other individual agency at the festival.

Considering so many of your agency’s campaign were recognized this year, what advice would you give to agencies looking to take the top prize next year?

I suppose there’s no substitute for hard work. You have to have the entries and they must be of the absolute highest standard. We judge our ideas on the basis that they are simple, surprising and empathetic. This has been an internal measure, but it’s something that I would apply to any work I see. The only real advice I could give is that execution is everything. You have to nurture the idea and transform it through beautifully realized execution.

I know your agency is based in the U.K., but considering most of our readers are based in the U.S., I am sure many are wondering whether you do any work for companies over here?

We work with clients all over the world, and do have specific U.S.-based relationships. We’re very aware of the opportunities and scale of the business in America, so yes, we are more than interested in continuing to develop those contacts.

You also served as a judge for the awards. What was that experience like? Did you learn anything or take anything away from the entries you judged?

Lions Health was run with a level of professionalism and attention to detail that I have not seen in any other healthcare-specific award show. It was an honor to serve on the first Pharma Jury, and I know that all of the judges took their responsibilities very seriously. I guess the best thing from my point of view was being able to get a real insight into the industry at a global level, and to have the time to debate the work in detail with people from different countries.

I wanted to bring that up as well. This was a global event that brought a lot of people and companies together that might not be familiar with each other. Did you meet anyone interesting or learn anything new?

You’re right, Cannes absolutely provides a meeting place for everyone from everywhere to spend time together talking about creative work. What I learned was that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, everyone responds positively to a great idea. I also saw some brilliant not-for-profit work, which has left me determined to do something that can make a difference to people. JWT Sao Paulo’s Superformula idea is a good example of how agencies are thinking through ways to make a positive impact on the communities around them. Doing things that harness creativity to be genuinely helpful.

What was your impression of the festival overall? Were there any presentations or speakers that wowed you?

As a judge, I didn’t get the opportunity to attend any of the seminars—we spent three and half days reviewing work. Anecdotal feedback from my team gave fairly mixed reviews of those talks, although the organizers knew that this inaugural year would be quite experimental. So far as the format and organization is concerned, I was very impressed by the commitment Cannes Lions made to support a show dedicated to honoring the best work in health.

Were you impressed by any of the winners from agencies other than your own? If so, what was it that impressed you?

I have to recognize the efforts of McCann Health. While there’s a rivalry between them and us, I see them as the only network that’s visibly making an effort to drive creative standards across their network. The guys at GSW in the States also deserve a mention, particularly for their human approach to complex issues. Boomtown in South Africa also impressed me with a great way to help get more doctors out to Africa. And the Hope Soap project, again out of South Africa, was an impressively simple idea elegantly produced. I could go on…!

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