Simply the (euro)best in health comms

8th December 2016

Last week, I flew to Rome, the Eternal City, for my inaugural judging experience at eurobest 2016, the Festival of European Creativity. Along with seven others in the health communications industry, I took part in the health jury, a category recently introduced to the festival to enable pharma and health sector work to be assessed alongside its peers.

I arrived not really knowing what to expect. I left feeling energised and excited by the experience. From the work we spent many hours reviewing, to the people I was locked away with debating whether the work was award-worthy or not, it was immersive, exhausting and deeply satisfying.

How to summarise what I saw in Rome? I think it is more appropriate to describe what I felt. The work that I voted for, and in some instances fought hard for, was work that my body reacted to. I felt it. I had a physical response to it.

In some cases, it was work that was rooted in a beautiful patient insight, work that had the ability to make a difference to people’s lives, or work that challenged the way we looked at a certain health condition.

Universally, it was work that was ground-breaking, raising the bar in health communications. Work that you would be as proud-as-punch to have your agency associated with.

A total of 110 awards were presented in the healthcare category. The Grand Prix winner was DOT, the First Braille Smartwatch, which has the power to transform the lives of 350 million blind and visually impaired people worldwide.

A Pink Ribbon Germany breast cancer campaign, Check It Before It’s Removed, won two Golds: not only went viral and got women to check their breasts regularly, but also successfully overturned Facebook’s social media censorship rules around naked breasts.

Simplified Stories, on behalf of the Alzheimer’s League in Belgium, won Bronze for its potential to change the way books are edited, enabling those with early onset dementia to keep reading for longer.

Other inspiring campaigns we saw in the jury room included Fearless, a campaign from Samsung, where VR is effectively used as “immersive therapy” to help people overcome acrophobia. We have seen VR used to bring symptoms to life, to help improve understanding of a condition but this went a step further, with impressive outcomes.

The other piece of work that I found haunting was for a Belgian Alzheimer’s charity looking to enlist volunteer support. The short, powerful film featured a dementia patient being cared for by a robot. The image of a lonely older woman leaning on a robot really hit me – how would you feel about a robot commanding that I get out of bed, take a shower, dance the waltz? Can or should robots replace human caregiving?

As we saw at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, there is no shortage of mind-blowing creativity in the health sector. Health touches every aspect of our lives and, more than ever before, we are seeing incredible health content and craft from technology brands, publishers, retailers and even insurance companies.

The challenge is arguably that other organisations that are contributing to the health of millions – helping prolong lives, turn terminal illness to chronic conditions, driving awareness and education – are not submitting work. To my surprise, there were no entries from pharmaceutical companies in the Branded Communication to Healthcare Professionals, or the Unbranded Communications category, at eurobest 2016.

Which begs the question – why not? It’s time for pharma companies and their partner agencies to show the world the amazing work they are doing. We have much to be proud of, after all.