Pfizer, Roche, Teva grab pharma Cannes Lions for 2021, but a wearable company scores the top creativity prize

Cannes Lions awarded its pharma Grand Prix—highly anticipated after last year’s festival cancellation—to a non-pharma company.

Woojer audio wearable company, along with its health agency FCB Health’s Area 23, won the creativity festival's top pharma prize for “Sick Beats,” its music experience and treatment vest for people with cystic fibrosis.

Using 40 HZ deep-bass vibrations, the vest loosens mucus in patients’ lungs, in a fashion similar to their traditional oscillation vests, but without the physical pounding—and with a more “fun” music experience. As one young girl says on video, wearing a huge smile while using it: “I feel like I’m inside a speaker. … It’s so cool!”

Pharma jury president Anne de Schweinitz, managing director for healthcare at FleishmanHillard, called the inspired tech-enabled effort “a solution, an innovation and certainly more than a campaign. It's something that will change the lives of people.”

The vest and campaign was driven by Area 23, which came up with the idea and sought Woojer as a partner. It also won two gold and one bronze awards.

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Although shut out of the grand prize, traditional pharma companies were still well represented among the top winners.

Teva snapped up a gold and a silver pharma lion for its unbranded film “Hairspray” about an elderly man who becomes a hair stylist, going to beauty school and learning the craft, as the caregiver for his ailing wife.

Roche’s Genentech won a silver lion for its “Bloodless Battle” branded content eSports video series for people with hemophilia.

Pfizer scored three bronze awards for three different campaigns, including its Chantix DTC campaign with its now-familiar animated smoking-cessation turkey. The pharma also won for unbranded work around vaccines with a “Mozart 80” concert in Shanghai, which used AI to imagine music if Mozart hadn’t died from a bacterial infection at age 35. It picked up its third bronze for a heartfelt film about a young woman with Familial Amyloid Polyneuropathy (FAP).

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Argenx won a bronze for its myasthenia gravis docuseries “A Mystery to Me,” with real patients talking about the rare and unpredictable disease, while Janssen also picked up a bronze pharma lion for its European campaign to stop stigma and discrimination around depression.

Along with the pharma company winners, their agencies snapped up prizes for overall wins. FCB Health won healthcare network of the year and its Area 23 won healthcare agency of the year. Both were second-time winners—FCB Health won network of the year in 2018, while Area 23 nabbed the agency award in 2017.

Cannes officials noted that while the number of entrants for pharma awards is smaller than the count in many of the the festival's 28 other advertising categories, it did pull in the biggest increase in entries in 2021. This time around, the pharma category brought in 40% more entries, more than any other category when compared with the last Lions festival in 2019.