2018 Executive Jury Spotlight: June Laffey

June Laffey

Chief Creative Officer
McCann Health

The Global Awards Executive Jury is a dedicated panel of healthcare, wellness and Pharma (RX) executives whose high standards of excellence have meant that the ongoing legacy of the Global Awards is respected around the world both by winners and industry reports measuring creative distinction. Words like innovative, iconic, visionary, and influential, come to mind when describing these prominent award-winning creative leaders.

2018 Global Awards Executive Jury member June Laffey is Chief Creative Officer for McCann Health New York.  Known for her team-building reputation and for consistently creating innovative winning work on both the international and national levels, she brings her leadership expertise and creative chops to the 2018 Executive Jury. June joined McCann Health Sydney in 2010 and served as Executive Creative Director, and under her leadership McCann Health Sydney became the most awarded agency in Asia Pacific. Throughout the years she has earned impressive accolades at all the major awards shows and is much sought-after as a juror.  

What do you find thrilling about the industry now that may have been different 5 years ago?

Work seems to be becoming more meaningful. I think that’s a consequence of two things: The realization of how powerful health communications can be – we’re in the business of empowering, improving and even saving lives—and the work shows this. I personally find the introduction of more reputable award shows into the industry has not only attracted better creative thinking but made us hungrier to lift the work.

What is on the horizon for the industry in general and what do you see emerging more in the next few years?

The work is becoming more about innovation than communication in some respects. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be high-cost items, just simple ideas. Last year we had The Immunity Charm, which cleaned up at the award shows. And talking of cleaning up, this year we had “Handwashing Chalk.”  I see more and more thinking outside of traditional channels, working with multiple partners to innovate and PR, also playing around with alternate reality - that will be the immediate future of the industry.

What are some of the projects that you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of and why?  Could be anything.

It’s hard to name much that has aired since I’ve been in New York as things do tend to take a long time to get up here. But from my office, I love the “Lighter Blue” work which recently got a silver at Cannes [and a Global last November], and also “Laugh it up.” We have got some cool ideas on the boil. So, watch this space.  The Metamucil work for Australia was a fun one. It’s great when you have a client that is brave enough to break conventions for the sake of cut through creativity. We created a film which was highly successful for the brand in 2017 featuring a walking poo in a romance with a giant Metamucil jar, Miss Meta. The fun continued this year when we created a love triangle by adding a walking gut character. I’m proud of this as the production company was awesome, and we improvised along the way. Facebook worked with us on the original. But we broke convention of 30 seconds max and delivered 2.17 round one and 3 minutes round two—and they both work extremely well. 

What’s your biggest challenge in working in healthcare and wellness/pharma and what do you do to overcome that challenge, both personally and as a team?

Having come from Australia where things seem to move quickly, often without much budget, I am finding the slow pace of the process in the states with multiple rounds of research and multiple layers of approval challenging. Whilst we can’t change either of those things, we can look for opportunities that don’t necessarily need to be researched, such as experiential. Also looking at each opportunity as a 360 opportunity and going beyond what is briefed can often lead to better creative thinking and hopefully organic growth. 

Why did you choose to work in the field of healthcare and wellness advertising?  Did you fall into it or seek it out?  And what did you find when you got there that you didn’t expect.

I made a conscious decision to move to health at the start of the new millennium to make a difference. Every day is an opportunity to positively impact lives and even save lives. I’m not Robinson Crusoe in this. With the growing “sex appeal” of our industry, I’m meeting more and more young talented people who also got into it.  It’s important work and there is so much to do. As for what I didn’t fully expect, every day I’m humbled by the power of the human spirit to overcome, challenge, and even laugh at illness. To see what people suffer, how they cope and how they even thrive, and not just survive is sometimes nothing short of miraculous.

Does working at times on such emotionally-charged and taxing projects that deal with life/wellness as well as illness/death issues ever bring up strong emotions for you as a creative?  How do you remain present while still accomplishing the goals of the brand and pushing for good patient outcomes?

Yes of course…this work is very personal.  A couple of years ago I lost my Dad. It was hard to see him suffer stroke and heart problems and so much more when you are working on products to save patients day by day. Mum is still with us, but she takes so many pills for a list of so many health problems, she almost rattles when she walks. Which by the way isn’t very often as she now pretty much is wheelchair-bound.  Seriously though, I’ve worked on all the things she’s suffering—scoliosis, RA, osteoporosis, and more…and it really sucks. But, I have to remain present because if we can write an ad or spark an idea, that can put the right treatment in the right hands to help lessen the suffering, job done.