Headshot photo of Bianca Eichner

The Cannes Pharma Lions: Judging the Future

— Bianca Eichner, GM & VP 

Four weeks before my journey began, I learned that I’d be going to Cannes as a member of the Health Lions jury for the Pharma category. I felt honored and excited about what to expect. But I also knew that "Pharma" would not be an easy jury.

I must admit, I expected big egos in this small room on the Côte d'Azur. But that wasn't the case. Ten wonderful, hearty, and creative people came together to face the challenge of Pharma Health Lion. Six women and four men. Robin, our jury president, led us through the process and the entries in a sophisticated and sovereign way and represented us wonderfully as a group at the press conference and the award show. Thank you very much for that.

WE Bianca Eichner and the other judges at Cannes

Why these Cannes Pharma Lions Roared

Of the 352 entries, only 31 (compared to last year’s 53) made it onto the shortlist. And 11 of them roared to a Lion. Were we too critical? I don't think so. We were looking for work that met the Cannes Lions standard. We didn't want to compromise so we questioned, tried it ourselves, and discussed for many hours. We didn't make it easy for ourselves and were there with our hearts and minds. We were looking for work that would make a real difference.

A campaign that instantly excited us and took the Grand Prix was “Breath of Life.” WeChat, the smartphone app most frequently used in China, is the basis for this GSK campaign, with which the company wants to draw attention to the chronic lung disease COPD. Around 30 per cent of those affected in China do not know that they have COPD.

The idea? The smartphone’s microphone becomes a test device. The test person exhales strongly and a special algorithm determines their approximate lung volume from the sound wave. McCann Health Shanghai worked with a popular Chinese “blowing-ink” artist to help represent lung capacity.

This use of combining creative data visualization as well as smart and charming localization helped bring this compelling campaign to life. We were also impressed with its shareable option via WeChat, making other people aware of "Breath of Life" and helping save lives. About two weeks after its launch in April 2019, the self-test was called more than 10,000 times.

Gold and bronze went to The Learning Corp's "One Word" campaign, focusing on digital therapies and cognitive rehabilitation for brain injuries. In a short film, a baby is sent on a journey through the human brain, avoiding obstacles and finding creative solutions to crawl ahead. The video shows how difficult it is for people with brain injuries to pronounce even one word ("baby") and what techniques they use to do so. Also based on an app, this campaign understood that app-based language training is intended to strengthen the links between a picture shown and the corresponding word. AREA 23’s script for this campaign was stirring — edutainment and “empathainment” can be a difficult field to break through in, and this campaign did so through clever writing and sound design.

Moving Away from Classical Outcomes at Cannes Pharma Lions

Many entries wanted to achieve an improvement for patient and physician, be it in diagnostics, therapy or in simple quality of life and social acceptance.

One in a total of three silver lions awarded went to the VIIV Healthcare campaign "U=U=". The film shows viewers what it means to live with HIV today. In the film, people with a HIV infection are shown in everyday situations, in the swimming pool, shopping, with relatable moments of happiness and little annoyances. "Today it's just living" is the message. The two Us in the campaign’s title stand for "undetectable" and "untransmittable" — educating viewers that if a person’s viral load is below the detection limit, the virus can no longer be transmitted. Havas Lynx Manchester’s work was exceptional — we liked the script and implementation, and the film had moments that were particularly immersive. The moments captured were naturalistic, and it gave you the feeling that you were part of this community rather than an outsider.

Of course, not everyone who was on the shortlist made it to a lion. But the quality of the work we saw was so high, and the competition so spirited, that I think being one of those 31 campaigns shortlisted is cause to be proud, and to celebrate like a lion.

For all who have received a Health Lion in Pharma: really great work. You touched us and convinced us.