‘A healing moment:' Healthcare marketing dispatches from Cannes 2022

Marketing leaders say campaigns honored at the French festival signified that brands are focusing on purpose-driven advertising.

Purpose-driven advertising stood out at Cannes this year. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Held in person for the first time since 2019, marketers from around the world traveled to the French Riviera this week to honor the best in advertising and connect with visionary leaders.

This year’s festival was something of a "healing moment" for the industry after more than two years marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Michael Guarino, chief commercial officer at IPG Health.

Guarino said that the festival felt “less competitive” than in years past, with more attendees focusing on supporting one another and fostering a genuine, industry-wide culture. 

“There was so much energy and enthusiasm around the whole festival, it was contagious,” he said. “Every single story from the people I’ve spoken with has been built around this idea of the resilience of the human spirit, including what they’ve done to overcome and get to a better place.”

Guarino also noticed that the bond between brands and consumers has strengthened during the pandemic, a trend that was reflected in subsequent campaigns. He pointed to the proliferation of cause-related advertising, dealing with such issues as birth-control access, deforestation and global voting rights.

“Cause-related advertising is not going away. Consumers are telling us what they want and the world is evolving to a point where it’s no longer just focused on the brand itself,” he said. “It’s about what that brand means in a person’s life and seeing the connectivity that we all have to each other. It’s greater than it has been at any time in history.” 

The networking opportunities at Cannes make it “one of the highlights of the year,” according to Franklin Williams, director of experience design at Area 23.

Williams said one campaign that stuck out to him was VMLY&R’s I Will Always Be Me campaign, which earned the 2022 Cannes Lions Pharma Grand Prix. He said the campaign focused on helping patients suffering from motor neurone disease rather than promoting a product, which made the work more impactful.

Echoing Guarino’s comments about cause-related advertising, Williams said the most meaningful work from his perspective was purpose-driven marketing.

“In all of the work this year, it showcased how a product or an idea can open the eyes of people to the plight of others,” he said.

Two executives from Marina Maher Communications and RXMosaic also weighed in with their experiences from the week. 

MMC and RXMosaic Global President Olga Fleming said Cannes underscored how important it is for marketers to understand consumers as people and work to ensure that brands remain as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Fleming said there were discussions at the festival that highlighted the need to analyze Gen Zers and how they approach race, healthcare and media consumption.

One campaign that impressed Fleming was the A Little Sugar campaign produced by Area 23, which incorporated hip-hop and cartoon animation to raise awareness about hidden sugars in common household foods. Fleming said the campaign was “smart and culturally relevant” in a way that could make a difference with young kids and prevent chronic illnesses later in life.

“There are campaigns that we’re seeing that excite us because we always look for a truth and an insight, but we also want to know how these ideas can be inserted into culturally relevant conversations that allow people to embrace the message and then adopt it,” she said. 

For his part, MMC and RXMosaic Executive Creative Director James Ferber said that he expects more technology innovations to emerge in the coming years that impact how healthcare marketing is conducted. He said certain parts of Cannes felt “like a tech conference,” with plenty of conversations swirling around possibilities in the metaverse.

Ferber warned his colleagues to not overlook the desire for consumers to get away from the screen-first life they endured during the majority of the pandemic.

“One of the main takeaways that simply isn’t being said is that people are craving real life experiences, as well,” Ferber said. “So as we go within the metaverse, as we kind of dive into digital environments, we can’t forget the visible ones, because that’s actually where our consumers want to be.”

This story first appeared on mmm-online.com. 

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