Many of the world’s 339 million people with asthma fall into the familiar and dangerous trap of over-relying on short-acting beta-agonist (SABA) inhalers. While these offer a quick fix, they also prevent patients from using their daily long-acting inhalers — the medications that best control their disease.

The campaign targets patients diagnosed with asthma in early childhood — the people who have been using inhalers long enough to develop these sub-optimal habits. That happens, AstraZeneca’s research found, due to a combination of apathy and emotional attachment to that blue inhaler. It becomes a crutch. And it can be an indication of uncontrolled asthma, which may increase the risk of asthma attacks and hospitalization.

Break Over-Reliance sets out to shock and grab the attention of patients and does so with a campaign that one of our judges describes as “delicious from start to end.” From its Brothers Grimm narrative approach to the dystopian twist on the “The Blue Danube” waltz, it wakes patients up the troublesome cycle.

A social-conversation analysis of asthma patients uncovered the need to reach patients at the moment they are likely to be over-reliant on their SABA inhaler, such as a sleepless night, times of stress, exercise and specific weather variables, such as temperature fluctuations, high air pollution and pollen count. 

The omnichannel program reaches patients at these inhaler trigger points, encouraging them to break their SABA dependency. “When research tells you that your audience is apathetic or emotionally tied to a behavior, you need to provoke rethinking,” another judge says. “This campaign does that, with a clear and rewarding mind-changing narrative from beginning to end.”