AstraZeneca nabs top pharma ad award at Cannes amid slim product-specific field

AstraZeneca ($AZN) and its agency DigitasLBI won the top award for pharma at the Cannes' Lions Health awards, for its disease awareness campaign "Take it From a Fish" about the importance of triglycerides. It was the first time a top award was given in pharma, as last year's judges did not select a Pharma Grand Prix winner.

Screenshot from the "Take it From a Fish" campaign--Courtesy of AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca mounted "Take it From a Fish" in tandem with its launch of Epanova, a drug derived from fish oil that targets--you guessed it--ultra-high triglycerides. The campaign featured chatty fish jawing about the worrisome lipids.

Other U.S. winners included Gold Lions for Orexo's osteoporosis drug Zubsolv and Microsoft OneNote's Collective Project which creates bionic arms for kids. Bronze Lions winners included campaigns for Galderma's Soolantra, Novartis' ($NVS) meningitis vaccine Bexsero and AbbVie's ($ABBV) Humira, as well as Novartis' plaque psoriasis awareness push "That's PSO Me."

Pharma entries were down this year, 432 versus 517 in 2014, the inaugural year for the health-focused awards. Submissions rose in pharma's sister health-and-wellness category, going to 1,430 from 906. U.S. pharma submissions also dropped to 155 from 200 last year.

Twenty-five total pharma awards were given, but Bruce Rooke, chief creativity officer at InVentiv Health who was a pharma judge last year and a speaker this year, pointed out that a smaller number of pharma finalists--there were 19 shortlisted from the U.S.--were for a specific drug campaign. He estimated only 20% to 30% of the shortlisted entries on display featured a named prescription product.

"The good news is people are pushing clients to look outside of the product to see a greater purpose or public service versus the pill that we make. The concerning news is, though, that it looks like we're running away from the product," he said. "I think there is more product-based storytelling that could be done."

Cannes is known for its annual film confab and consumer marketing ad festival, but Rooke thinks the newer pharma-and-health awards show has potential to become an industry draw. The awards go hand-in-hand with two days of talks and panels. Both the volume and quality of the presentations was impressive this year, he said.

"There were more people than last year, so that's going in the right direction," Rooke said. "Healthcare agency clients (including pharma companies) though, don't come like they do to the regular Cannes show. That has yet to take off."

- check out the Take it from a Fish site
- read the release

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