Close, but not quite the Grand Prix

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Although they did not award a Grand Prix this year, Cannes Pharma Lions jurors praised entrants for stepping up their creative and craft.


The jury recognized excellent craft in photography, sound design, cinematography, and website UI and UX design in the winners for both the Pharma and Health and Wellness Lions.


More than half of the shortlisted campaigns in the Pharma Lions were there because of the craft, said Rich Levy, Pharma Lions jury president. However, none had everything judges wanted.


“When we were thinking about a Grand Prix, we were looking at all of our work and there wasn't a piece that had the full package,” Levy explained. “There were campaigns that had parts, great craft, or great ideas that didn't have the results or the insight we were looking for. There was a fantastic diversity of ideas but there wasn't one idea.”


The campaign that came closest to the Pharma Grand Prix was the Blink to Speak effort for the Asha Ek Hope Foundation, Levy and the jurors said. The campaign created an “eye language” to help people with conditions like ALS, spinal cord injuries, or paralysis communicate with doctors or caregivers. Eye movements, like looking to the left or blinking, were translated into a book of common phrases and an alphabet that was distributed to these patients.


“We did have one contender, Blink to Speak, which unfortunately we couldn't award in pharma because it was a charity,” said Oliver Caporn, a Pharma Lions juror. “Sometimes the greatest ideas are the simplest. It's not about budget, not about production, just about cutting through and solving a problem that needed to be solved. The reason why everyone loved Blink to Speak, it took this already existing notion that people communicate with their eyes when there's nothing else to communicate with and took that and made it beautiful and made it a language. That's a big step.”


Carolyn O'Neill, another Pharma Lions juror, said the group could not award Blink to Speak the Grand Prix in Pharma, but made sure it was eligible for the U.N. Grand Prix for Good award, which it won.


“I was actually incredibly surprised by the breadth and depth of work in pharma,” O'Neill said. “I don't believe the regulated environment impacted the award of a Grand Prix in any way.”


Although regulated work is often thought to be more conservative and less likely to win at Cannes, Health & Wellness jury president R. John Fidelino said campaigns like Blink to Speak and winning campaigns in his category can serve as a roadmap for pharma.


“We had a lot of Golds that were more charity work and therefore were not eligible for consideration in the category, but if you look at the work that did win Grand Prix for Good, that's something that a pharma communications agency could could create,” Fidelino said.


Levy agreed that regulated campaigns can be just as creative as others. Most Silver and Bronze Lions winners were regulated campaigns for healthcare providers or patients, although no regulated campaign took home a Gold Pharma Lion.


“I think this year, finally, the notion that regulated work can't win at Cannes has been dismissed,” Levy said. “We had more shortlists and more winners from regulated categories than from unregulated categories. I think we finally dispelled that myth.”


While Pharma didn't get a Grand Prix this year, the Health and Wellness Grand Prix went to Corazon, a film and digital campaign encouraging people to become organ donors. The judges said the campaign had the creative aspect of the film, a strong PR component, an engaging digital experience, and the results to show it actually worked.


Campaigns such as Corazon touch on pressing social issues, like healthcare access. Other winning healthcare campaigns did the same, focusing on issues like opioids or cancer and breaking through topics where there's a lot of noise.


“If you think about topics awarded, it's cancer, organ donation, suicide, health accessibility biodiversity, bullying, and opioid addiction,” Fidelino said. “These are topics that reflect our society. You can see the state of the world and its needs through the work. In that way, the health and wellness category is an extremely good barometer of where we are in the world.”


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