Grand Jury Spotlight: Mike Van Linda

Mike Van Linda is a Creative Director with over 15 years’ agency experience. Prior to RPA, Mike worked at industry-leading shops 180LA, 72andSunny, The Martin Agency and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

Global Awards | October 08, 2019

Each year, the Global Awards recruits some of the world’s most prominent award-winning industry creatives and thought leaders to serve on the Global Awards Grand Jury.  Mike Van Linda is a Creative Director with over 15 years’ agency experience. Prior to RPA, Mike worked at industry-leading shops 180LA, 72andSunny, The Martin Agency and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

In addition to leading creative on the Honda brand, Mike helps oversee the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. The latter partnership resulted in the creation of the Imaginary Friend Society – a 2-year project designed to help kids better understand cancer through a series of animated films. The films have been permanently adopted by leading pediatric-cancer hospitals worldwide and translated into over a dozen languages.

Throughout his career, Mike has been recognized by several distinguished award shows including: Cannes Lions, One Show, Clios, ADC, Webbys and the Global Awards. In 2018, Mike was honored to be included on the Adweek 100 list, recognizing individuals who are “energizing fields like advertising, art, literature, and cinematography.”

Global Awards: What new trends in healthcare advertising have you seen emerge in the past year?

Mike Van Linda: The integration of mobile technology continues to impact the healthcare space in remarkable ways. Two notable examples from recent years include the Breath of Life campaign from GlaxoSmithKline, and Corazón from Montefiore. Both turned smartphone technology into brilliant utilitarian activations. In the first case, peoples’ mobile phones became self-testing tools to allow early detection for lung disease. In the latter, smartphones became donation vehicles by helping enlist new organ donors and (presumably) helping save thousands of lives. Utilizing mobile devices will continue to be an ongoing trend, merging technology solutions with everyday common sense.

Global Awards: As you make your way through life, you encounter inevitable health issues with friends and family. Are there any diseases, issues, conditions that you have a yearning to work on? Why?

Mike Van Linda: There aren’t specific issues I’m yearning to work on, but there are specific people I wish to work for. Namely, kids. Three years ago, my baby cousin was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer. The next two years of his life were spent in and out of hospitals undergoing all types of tests, scans, radiation, chemotherapy and so on. Being only 6 months old, he had no clue what was happening. Neither did his older sister, who, at the time, was 6 years old. Their inability to comprehend this complex medical landscape helped inspire the creation of the Imaginary Friend Society: a film series designed to help kids understand cancer care. Having an opportunity to help kids and provide a tool to support them in navigating their difficult reality was easily the greatest honor of my career and an experience I’m looking to repeat.

Global Awards: Is Wellness advertising increasing, if so, how has the market changed within the last few years?

Mike Van Linda: The rise of cannabis advertising has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. Living in California, I see cannabis creative everywhere. Particularly in outdoor. My commute to work is like passing one giant tsunami of cannabis billboards. However, the biggest head-turning moment came when cannabis retailer MedMen enlisted Spike Jonze to direct a short brand film chronicling the history of marijuana in the U.S. For me, this marked a “coming-out party” for an immense new category within health & wellness. One that’s highly profitable, and highly contentious.

Global Awards: What creative work on behalf of brands both wellness and/or pharma have you seen recently that are breakthrough in creative and effective?

Mike Van Linda: The recent work I’ve found most powerful is that which successfully reframes an important conversation. Campaigns like Viva La Vulva and SickKids VS are two mind-blowing examples of how shifting the dialogue around a substantive issue can be equal parts creatively brilliant and effective. Both campaigns aimed to galvanize their respective audiences in the present and modify behavior to benefit those in the future.