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Cannes Lions Health awards: Sweet spot in health care ads

Praful Akali/ 20 Jun 17 | 02:51 AM

India truly dominated the stage at the Cannes Lions Health awards this year. Two of the top three healthcare agencies of the year were from India, the Grand Prix for Good was from India supported by four gold, six silver and three bronze Lions. While India has been winning big at the Glass Lions, to do so across categories and agencies at the Lions Health awards was heart-warming. And with a jury member from India — Amit Akali — the story was complete for the country.

McCann Mumbai’s ‘Immunity Charm’ won the Grand Prix and was truly a favourite with four golds, four silvers and a bronze — a simple idea, a key life-changing solution at its core, a deep cultural insight. Our own ‘Last Laugh’ (for Palliative Care) was another big winner with several jury members complimenting it, even covering it in the jury session with just four other pieces. 

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It was also a landmark year for the Lions Health awards in many ways: There were close to 3,000 entries overall and the health and wellness (H&W) section (within the Lions Health awards) having over 2,000 of those entries becomes one of the most competitive categories at the Cannes Ad Fest. Dominated by mainline agencies and the biggest consumer brands adding a healthcare angle and entering their work in the Lions Health awards, it can’t get better than this. Even Adidas for its ‘Odds’ campaign, a piece of work for its special-edition shoes of the same name for para-athletes, one of my personal favourites from India, has won a bronze. 

The Grand Prix winner in the H&W section then is truly an incredible campaign: ‘Meet Graham’, a specially-designed humanoid built to withstand car crashes, created to drive road-safety practices in Australia, is now famous across the world. The gold winner that I fell in love with even before coming to Cannes was Down Syndrome Answers. The Internet is crowded by questions from potential and current down syndrome parents and the theoretical answers to these often decide their next course of action. The Canadian Down Syndrome Society decided to answer these questions with videos from the experts, down syndrome children themselves. Heart-warming, indeed. 

For more winners in H&W: If you would like to see one motivational video in your life, make sure it’s ‘Sick Kids Fight Back’ showing children taking on the cancer that is killing them within. And if you haven’t donated your organs yet, please watch ‘The World’s Biggest Asshole’ right now. If you believed that advertising could have a solution to everything but world hunger, then ‘Potatoes On Mars’ will show you how growing potatoes in a simulated Mars environment in partnership with Nasa, helped discover a crop that can grow in the toughest regions of the world, thus becoming a solution to world hunger.

But while the H&W section focused on the basics of good advertising, the pharma section (within the Lions Health) moved away from typical advertising into solutions — often driven by creative use of technology, sometimes driven by just simple creativity. India’s own winner, the ‘Immunity Charm’ with colour-coded beads on the traditional Afghani charm bracelet is a brilliant solution to the vaccination problem in Afghanistan, where it is difficult to track whether all vaccines have been administered to a child. 

The ‘VR Vaccine’, another piece of work, uses virtual reality in a unique way. Children receiving vaccines put on a virtual reality headset that places them as heroes in an animated adventure world, who need to take the fire-fruit (read vaccine), making the actual task easier for those administering the dose (read doctors and nurses). And when Northwell Health (a US-based healthcare network) wanted to communicate their innovation capabilities, instead of simply saying it in an ad they created the innovative ‘Fin’ that allowed amputees to use the swimming pool without removing their prosthetic legs. 

I believe these trends will continue — the strong presence of India in global healthcare advertising, intense competition driving deep insightful creativity in health and wellness and even sharper creative solutions to real-world health issues in pharmaceuticals and medical devices. So keep watching out for more.  

The author is founder and managing director of Medulla Communications

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