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Cannes Lions Health: A shift in advertising

If this year’s Lions Health entries are any indication, brands are really ramping up their efforts to reach female consumers with an eye to today’s values and trends.

Women have traditionally been the chief consumers in the household, and, in particular, have made—and continue to make—most of the health decisions for themselves and their families. In more recent years, the rise of social media has further amplified their voices and impact on the marketplace: women are now responsible for 70-80 percent of all purchasing. That’s staggering when you consider that the global income of women will reach $18 trillion by 2018. As healthcare evolves into a more consumer-centric industry, communicating about health to women in clever, empowering, and socially conscious ways is the way to go. And it’s encouraging to see that the creative world is doing just that.

In the last few years, brands have clearly been rethinking the way they both represent and speak to women. Greater emphasis on purpose (Tom’s), self-esteem (Dove), positive body image (Aerie), and empowerment (GoldieBlox, #LikeaGirl) have enriched the landscape, shifted expectations, and effectively disrupted traditional marketing to women. Since the first newspaper ad ran in 1704, advertisements have played on ideals and dreams, offering the promise of an easier life in the latest household goods and hope in jars of beauty cream. From Gibson girls to flappers to Tex Avery WWII bombshells, the portrayal of women in advertising has oscillated from the patronizing to patriotic to stereotypical to flat-out sexist. Though women have been “sold to” for many years, a growing majority of brands are focusing on storytelling more than the hard sell and relying on messages that resonate rather than those that manipulate.

In the healthcare space, brands are creating impactful media campaigns by identifying and sensitively leveraging the emotions behind health issues that affect or matter to women. We’ve leaped light years ahead of the days when objectification and shaming were commonly employed in advertising, and into an era in which messages targeting women are more likely to educate, inspire, or celebrate wellness and womanhood. Certainly evident amongst the award-winning work at Cannes Health Lions this year, the embrace of this empathetic approach should be a clear signal to all healthcare brands that authentic, empowering campaigns are what speak to this influential demographic.

Life Saving Dot (Grey Group Singapore)

Embracing the traditional use of bindis to address iodine deficiency in Indian women and the medical issues that stem from it:

Intimate Words (Leo Burnett Mexico)

Removing the taboos around the female body to save women’s lives and teach the next generation about reproductive and sexual health:

I Touch Myself (J. Walter Thompson Sydney)

A 90s song about “self-love” truly lives up to its message when reimagined as a call-to-action to prevent breast cancer:

This Girl Can (FCB Inferno)

Making a gorgeous mess of traditional female depictions by celebrating real fitness, real bodies, and real women:

This is just a small sampling of the wide array of women’s health focused-campaigns from Lions Health. Ideally, they will excite and inspire fellow healthcare brands to be authentic and build meaningful connections with women. Hopefully we’re entering an era where this kind of work epitomizes the category instead of standing out from it.

This article originally appeared on AdvertisingHealth.


Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth