Cannes Lions drops pharma shortlists with Pfizer, Roche, Teva and more vying for top creativity awards

Flags flying outside Cannes Lions 2019
Finalists for the Cannes Lions Live awards include 48 pharma entries, with winners set to be revealed Monday. (Beth Snyder Bulik)

Cannes Lions dropped shortlists Saturday for its creativity awards in two health categories: pharma, and health and wellness. But finalists won't have to wait long to find out whether they've won—winners will be announced live from the virtual event Monday morning.

Among the 48 pharma finalists, Pfizer nabbed four finalist slots for brands Chantix and Pristiq along with unbranded work for its Mozart 80 concert in Shanghai—using AI to imagine if Mozart hadn’t died from a bacterial infection at age 35—and an awareness film for familial amyloid polyneuropathy from Brazil.

Pharma films snared several finalist mentions this year. Along with Pfizer, Novartis got a nod in animation and visual effects for its retinal dystrophy drug Luxturna's “Finding Light” film, while Teva captured two film finalist slots for its unbranded film “Hairspray” about a man who becomes a caregiver and hair stylist to his ailing wife.

Argenx, meanwhile, snagged a nomination for its myasthenia gravis docuseries “A Mystery to Me” with real patients talking about the rare and unpredictable disease.

RELATED: Argenx spotlights myasthenia gravis with patient-shot docuseries

Roche’s Genentech grabbed two spots in branded content for its “Bloodless Battle” eSports series focused on hemophilia. Roche’s animated digital and social hemophilia campaign about managing the condition was also shortlisted for branded content.

Neurocrine Biosciences is in the running for its Parkinson’s Cards to Heroes campaign, an effort that encouraged people with Parkinson’s to write cards—and keep up handwriting exercises—to everyday heroes, including people working on the front lines of the pandemic.

In the broader health and wellness category—which included 127 finalists from a wide swath of consumer brand companies including Nike, Apple, Adidas, Google, Volvo and Unilever—the combined Mylan and Pfizer off-patent drugmaker, now called Viatris, stood out as one of the few pharmas. Its animated “Love Story” short film for Viagra Connect is shortlisted for film in the over-the-counter medicine category.

RELATED: Cannes Lions Health names pharma and health judges for all-virtual event

The virtual Cannes advertising creativity show, called Cannes Lions Live this year, will run Monday through Friday with awards given for work from both 2020 and 2021 after last year’s event was canceled.

Submissions this year were down over the last time the show was held, despite the broader two-year time frame. While Cannes Lions did not break out the number of pharma and health entries separately, the total 29,074 creative pieces of work entered dropped from 30,953 in 2019.

Susie Walker, vice president of awards for the Lions event, said in a press release this week that the numbers suggested a shift in work, noting “in the face of unprecedented circumstances, work that relies on long-term strategy and results appears to have been hit this year.”

RELATED: Lions Health wrap: Roche's reality show, Sanofi's sneezy AR push, SRO for Epidiolex and more

As usual, not all the brands up for pharma awards are pharma companies. Wearable company Woojer’s "Sick Beats" vest and campaign for kids with cystic fibrosis (CF) pulled six shortlist nominations. The music experience company and its agency, FCB Health’s Area 23, were chosen for mobile, use of technology, user and brand experiences, creative data use and product innovation.

The Woojer vest, currently in clinical development, delivers 40-Hz music to CF patients’ chests, loosening the mucus in a fashion similar to a traditional high-​frequency chest wall oscillation vest—without the physical vibrations and pounding.

Technological components in the vest pull the deep-bass frequencies from music and “deliver them deep into the chest as powerful sound waves.” Woojer even created Sick Beats Spotify playlists with songs the device can tap for 40-Hz beats, including from popular artists like Maroon 5, The Wknd, Ariana Grande and Imagine Dragons.