Philips takes the pharma Grand Prix at Cannes




A deeply emotional campaign developed by Ogilvy & Mather for Philips showing people with lung conditions like cystic fibrosis and COPD learning how to sing and performing at the Apollo Theater won the pharma Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Health festival of creativity.

The campaign, called Breathless Choir and set to Sting's “Every Breath You Take,” seeks to raise awareness about COPD. The 18 choir participants, each of whom has a respiratory condition that can limit their ability to talk or breath, used a Philips SimplyGo Mini, a portable oxygen concentrator. 

See the list: Lions Health 2016 pharma winners

“They tell a story that is uplifting, complex, and cinematic,” said Alexandra von Plato, this year's pharma jury president and group president of North America for the Publicis Healthcare Communications Group.



The campaign also contributed to a boost in sales, according to the entry. Revenue for Philips' oxygen devices rose 14% in the quarter that the campaign launched, as compared to the previous quarter. The campaign, which launched in November, targeted both healthcare professionals and consumers.

“When your body is so on the edge of dying or on the edge of pain, it's terrifying,” Claire Wineland, an 18-year-old woman with cystic fibrosis, said during the video. “But it comes down to a moment when you have to really think: Is this life going to be one you're going to be proud or, or not?”

See also: Pharma's complexity calls for a closer look at creativity

The campaign is a departure in many ways from traditional medical device marketing, which often relies on the technical mechanics of how a device works. In this campaign the product is visible but it is not the focus of the film. Royal Philips has a long history of marketing healthcare products but it also sells electronic toothbrushes, baby monitors, and other consumer products. This may be one reason why the company was interested in marketing a medical device in this manner, von Plato noted.

“They're taking a very untraditional approach to marketing a healthcare product,” she said.

See also: Q&A: Publicis' Alexandra von Plato on Cannes

What stood out to von Plato in this year's entries was the scope of the cinematic storytelling, as was the case for Breathless Choir. Many entries featured long-form storytelling, exposing the drama and complexity of the human condition, in contrast to traditional healthcare marketing, which traditionally focuses on explaining how a therapy or a medical device works.



“Some of these films we wanted to watch again and again,” she said.

This is the third year that Cannes Lions has held Lions Health, the specialty healthcare segment of the festival. The first year the jury declined to award a Grand Prix, citing the quality of the entries. Last year an unbranded campaign for AstraZeneca and developed by DigitasLBi called Take It From a Fish won the top prize.

See also: AstraZeneca pulls Take it From a Fish campaign

The gold winners are: Teva Neurosciences' ParkinSounds, developed by Havas Life in São Paulo; Aster Healthcare's The Nazar Initiative, developed by the Classic Partnership Advertising in Dubai; Last Words for the Indian Association of Palliative Care, developed by Medulla Communications; and Pfizer's branded-print campaign for Xalatan eyedrops, developed by McCann Health Hong Kong.

The Teva campaign features patients talking about how the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, which often affects an individual's gait, can limit their activities in everyday life. Teva partnered with Spotify on a program that selects songs automatically that the needed pace for the individuals to walk. Steps get “bigger, steadier, and safer.”

The Aster campaign featured an eye chart with images rather than letters for construction workers in Saudi Arabia who can't read. The workers, who struggle with eye care due to the sand prevalent in the region, the received free eye checkups through the Aster Medical Center.

And Last Words showed nurses in India explaining some of their patients' last words before dying. The campaign urged families to consider palliative care as a means of getting to hear those last words themselves.