Tech Company Takes Top Prize in Cannes Pharma Category as Health Sees New Entrants

Ogilvy & Mather London’s “Breathless Choir” for Philips won the grand prix in the pharmaceutical category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Saturday, as Lions Health kicked off a big week for advertising with wins for U.K. shops and non-traditional marketer entrants.

FCB Inferno London’s “Project Literacy” for Pearson took the top prize in the health and wellness category.

“The industry is really coming into its own in terms of a new era of marketing,” said Alexandra von Plato, president for Publicis Healthcare Communications in North America and jury president for the pharma category. “Cannes is a big part of challenging this industry to rise to new occasions in creativity.”

In Lions Health’s third year as part of the festival, jury presidents described work from new players that brought a fresh perspective to the conservative healthcare industry, as seen in the pharma victory by electronics and technology company Philips and interest in health and wellness from a more diverse group of companies and industries.

“There are many different and unexpected brands and categories entering into healthcare that are really trying to accelerate their brand or their issues through the power of healthcare,” said Joshua Prince, CMO of Omnicom Health Group in the U.S. and jury president for the health and wellness category. That meant judging work from a range of companies, including technology, packaged goods, supermarket and insurance, he said.


“Breathless Choir,” from Ogilvy London and its client Philips, tells the story of a group of people whose breathing disabilities had gotten in the way of their love of singing. Philips and its agency chronicled their journey to learn new techniques to save breath while singing, and ultimately perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The campaign was part of an effort to promote a medical device called SimplyGo Mini.

The jury looked at work that “used a full pallet of marketing communications to create the kind of engagement that maybe some other brands use more fluidly,” said Ms. Von Plato. “It demonstrates to all healthcare marketers that you can do this kind of narrative storytelling. You can expand the arc, create emotional content and have a very relevant and powerful connection to real substantial healthcare issues, disease conditions and products. We felt ‘Breathless Choir’ from Philips, an up-and-coming healthcare company, which is now entering healthcare hot and heavily in the devices space, is showing the rest of healthcare what’s possible through a fresh lens.”

For pharma, it’s one more example of a winner with an advocacy and broad awareness component, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a piece of work only wins when it contains those elements, said Ms. Von Plato. “I do think things could win without that, but when we have the opportunity to engage people in things they care about, advocacy is a very powerful way to do that,” she said. “Marketers who figure out who to connect to advocacy get that additional lift from an audience working on behalf of a brand in an authentic way.”

Through “Project Literacy,” educational giant Pearson and its agency FCB Inferno sought to raise awareness of global illiteracy by highlighting its role in perpetuating global health issues. The effort was a new version of the ABC’s song and disturbing animation, through which each letter of the alphabet is used to introduce a different way in which illiteracy can be harmful — A is for AIDS, B for Bloodshed, C for Child Brides, and so forth. The campaign, which included videos that offered a glimpse into how individuals are affected by these issues, spread through interactive social content and partnerships with nonprofit organizations.

This article originally appeared on AdvertisingAge