11 Jul 2017

It’s awards season in the healthcare communications business, with last week’s Communique Awards following hot on the heels of Lions Health in Cannes.  As Chair of the Judges for Communique I’m often asked what makes a winning entry or campaign, and whether this changes from year to year.

Well, sometimes a campaign simply stands out head and shoulders above the rest, but you’ll usually find that its’ winning creativity has been underpinned by rich insight and depth of strategic thought. I can’t speak for the whole of the Lions programme but based on this year’s Lions Health, it seems that campaigns are, on the whole, judged rather more on the ideas and how they are presented than on an in-depth scrutiny of their results. Well, that’s the impression I came away this year, after attending a discussion between the judges from the Pharma Jury focused on why they chose this year’s winners. It’s important to bear in mind though that the Lions Festival is all about celebrating the beauty of great ideas in and of themselves, whereas to win a Communique Award, campaigns must deliver measurable impact, rather than a good idea with perhaps the promise of future results yet to come.

Are there any trends this year? Well, it gets harder and harder for pure pharmaceutical product based work to compete against less constrained pro-bono and disease awareness campaigns when it comes to awards like Lions Health, but great ideas and execution will always win through in the end. Innovative uses of technology, whether as a means of communication or as a platform for delivering diagnosis and care, continue to grow in importance. Truthfully though, it is the ability to understand and articulate the needs of the patient that lies at the heart of truly great work, and resonates within every award-winning campaign.

For me, it’s always been about campaigns which clearly answer the ‘why?’ and ‘so what?’ questions, that is to say, why are we doing this, and at the end of the day what difference will it actually make? Work that is thoughtful, has purpose, strategic intent and integrity always resonates well with judges, and if it’s the kind of programme that makes you think “I wish I’d done that”, then you’re home and dry.

Execution matters too though. Even with the right strategy, work that’s poorly thought through and delivered will fail to make an impact. Knowing how to structure your story and how to maximise its reach through the right channels is just as important as coming up with a clever creative idea.

Lastly, a word on the continuing debate about whether awards matter, and to whom. Having won plenty, I can tell you that they matter to the winners. And having lost some I really wanted to win, that mattered to me too, maybe even more than the ones that I and my teams were fortunate enough to win.  Identifying and sharing best practice, thought-leading ideas and creative vision is an important part of the way our industry develops, our people judge their success and we as an industry demonstrate our value.