Returning from Cannes Lions Health, I can officially say I’m inspired: The campaigns were stellar. Yet, surprisingly, I found myself more moved by the type of campaigns that were honored than by the work itself—and excited by what this may foreshadow for our industry.

Two of the most highly decorated campaigns, “Intimate Words” (Grand Prix for Health/Wellness) and “This Girl Can” (Grand Prix for Good), both centered on women’s health topics and, strikingly, were not tied directly to sales.

  • “Intimate Words” (http://bit.ly/1GyJ59H) was P&G’s response to an unmet need among indigenous women in Mexico. It created a new set of words and expressions to discuss reproductive organs—and reinforced the need to undergo regular checks for cervical cancer. Developed along with the women themselves, the new vernacular gave them a universally understood way to have this health-critical conversation, impacting well-being for individuals, families and communities.
  • “This Girl Can” (http://bit.ly/1wleur4) was Sport England’s response to the decline of women athletes in the UK. By showcasing real women getting out there in all their “jiggly bits” glory and using motivational language to create genuine connections, the campaign addressed body image and self-esteem head-on to empower women to give athletics another go.

You may have noticed that “percentage sales increase,” “share of revenue among competitors,” or “year over year site traffic” weren’t part of these winning campaign descriptions. In fact, I didn’t even mention (nor did the campaign) that “Intimate Words” was for P&G’s brand Always. Results, as we’ve come to know them as marketers, weren’t highlighted. Instead, consumer connection, honest narrative and “feel good” brand enhancement took center stage.

In our industry, agencies are often tasked with getting as far down the purchase funnel as possible—moving consumers from eyes to wallet in the fewest steps manageable. But these two campaigns, and many others selected for Lions, focused on driving the brand halo through authentic storytelling—connecting to women in ways that made an emotional and longer-term impact.

This is a tidal shift in how marketing work has typically been evaluated. Sales figures will always be important, but the choice of the Lions Health Jury to elevate authentic communication over purchase call-to-action signals that longer-term gains (in the form of brand and corporate reputation) are being taken more seriously. And, with heavy hitting marketers including P&G, AstraZeneca and Novartis winning top prizes, it signals that companies are increasingly appreciating and investing in more meaningful, yet longer burn, brand-building work.

This type of marketing communications—particularly in healthcare—has the potential to affect real change in patient and consumer wellness while building the kind of brand equity and goodwill that is so important and so difficult to come by for sustainable success. To continue this, we must challenge ourselves to demonstrate the link between exceptional brand creative today and increased sales down the line due to brand preference, loyalty and reputation.

See for yourself (http://bit.ly/1H4XCQQ) how a renewed focus on authentic storytelling is not just winning accolades, but also forging connections with consumers. And what could be better for pharmaceutical public relations moving forward?

  • Alexandra (Alex) Peterson

    Alexandra (Alex) Peterson is Senior Vice President, Practice Leader, Health of Makovsky. Alex has nearly a decade of experience in marketing communications, public relations and business development. At Makovsky, she contributes to health account teams with strategic planning, brand management and ongoing counsel.

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