Amit Akali
Guest Article

"While we may be judging, we're being judged too..."

Prescription to win a Healthcare Spike - from the desk of the Jury President.

In the context of the healthcare category, how many times have we heard: "It's only advertising, you're not saving lives"? Frankly, healthcare advertising is the closest we come to saving lives. And that's a high no other category offers. So, the jury will be on the look out for life-changing work.

"While we may be judging, we're being judged too..."

Amit AkaliThis is also the fastest growing category, with over 3,000 entries in the Health and Pharma categories at Cannes this year. And that's probably because brands - and not just those in the healthcare segment - have realised how paramount health is to their consumer. Which is why you have FMCG, sports, finance, even technology brands, winning big in Healthcare. While encouraging work from across industries, the jury will have its antennae up for 'What is truly healthcare advertising?' - and, what is not. So don't try passing off a 'Save The Wildlife' campaign as healthcare, because it's good for the health of animals! Or at least don't be surprised if it doesn't win.

We'll be especially alert when it comes to the highly regulated Pharma categories. Most award shows have a separate jury for Health and a separate one for Pharma - Spikes doesn't. The fact is that when you're judging all the work together, Healthcare work tends to seem more creative, since Pharma work has a lot more regulations governing it. Therefore, as a jury, it's our responsibility to keep that in mind before we start judging the Pharma categories. Not for a moment am I saying that Pharma work should win just because it meets restrictions. But we'll try to keep in mind that we are judging two completely different award shows. It's like, we're first judging an elocution contest and then we're judging a mime, where the person isn't allowed to speak; they're both different, right?

When Healthcare was first introduced as an awards category a few years back, you wondered whether it was set up to protect an industry in which the work wasn't creative enough to win otherwise. I don't think that was true then and I certainly don't think it's true now. In fact, this year at Cannes, all the work from India that won big in Pharma, be it 'Immunity Charm' or 'Last Laugh', also won or got shortlisted across mainline categories like PR, Promo and Direct, while pieces like Savlon Chalk Stick and adidas Odds that won big in mainline, also won in Healthcare. So we'll be looking for work that could, in terms of creativity and execution, win across categories but happens to be in Healthcare.

We'll be searching for the basics; the I-wish-I-had-done-it kind of ideas, fresh insights, beautiful storytelling, excruciatingly detailed craft, simple solutions and path-breaking innovation. Yes, technology has changed healthcare communication, but we'll be searching for EQ (Emotional Quotient) amongst all that VR (Virtual Reality) and AI (Artificial Intelligence). You won't be rewarded just for using technology, but for using it to solve a problem successfully.

Due will be given to local and cultural thinking. After all, what differentiates the Spikes from other award shows is that it's Asia-focussed. Jurors at Spikes come from across Asia and can therefore throw light on the cultural nuances behind the entries from their region.

Judging Healthcare is like judging an entire awards show. Under each category the entries are further segregated as per medium - Integrated, Film, PR, Print, Digital, Print Craft, Film Craft, etc. So as a jury we'll need to put on our 'medium' hats for each entry. Example, a piece under 'illustration' or 'art direction', may not be judged as much for the idea as it will be for the craft. Luckily, our jury also comprises experts from different mediums including digital and PR.

Finally, the only objective we have is to choose the best work in the healthcare space in Asia. I'm very aware that while we may be judging, we're being judged by the industry too.

(The author is chief creative officer, Medulla Communications and managing partner, What's Your Problem. He's President, Spikes Asia, Healthcare Jury, 2017.)

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