McCann Health’s Guy Swimer: how creativity can help keep us safe and well

As the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity returns – in hybrid format, following last year’s virtual conference – will we hear the Lions roar more loudly as it once again welcomes adland and rekindles ‘in real life’? My hope is that the world of healthcare advertising will continue to shine alongside the high-profile consumer campaigns this year.

Over the last few years, the profile of healthcare categories within the main week of the Lions has steadily grown, and it’s set to be an outstanding year for the sector. While it’s true that the pandemic has highlighted the critical role of healthcare and wellbeing globally, we have seen amazing progress in these categories for some years. And I’m looking forward to a celebration of the biggest healthcare agencies that are established experts in our sector, building healthcare brands through creativity and effectiveness.

Last year, the two Grand Prix in Health & Wellness were won by Bodyform’s ground-breaking ‘Womb Stories,’ and ‘Steal our staff’ for Beco showing how high the bar for creativity in the health sector is being set.

But healthcare agencies are up to this challenge. We have the expertise, the science and the know-how to continue leading the field. And we also have the creativity to negotiate a world in which emotions are laid bare – something powerfully demonstrated in the animated musical film ‘The Feelings’, inspired by stories from the healthcare front line for Mental Health Awareness Week; powerfully driving home the reality of the emotional – and unprecedented – challenges many healthcare workers still face and feel two years on.

But simplicity and clarity in the work is key also. In the UK, at the start of the pandemic our Government launched the “Stay at Home” strategy, which was a clear and actionable directive. What wasn’t so successful was changing that to “Stay Alert” a few months later received by the public with a blend of bafflement and ridicule.

Perhaps the pandemic has taught us all something about the weight of our individual and collective responsibility. In a climate of lack of trust in institutions and leaders, empathy and transparency are key. Whilst the worst of the pandemic is hopefully behind us, our creativity and the way we deliver our message matters now more than ever.

After all, Cannes isn’t just about the parties; it’s also about work that helps to save lives.

Guy Swimer is Executive Creative Director, McCann Health London.

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