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

Flags flying outside Cannes Lions 2019
Inside the Palais, Lions Health is all about marketing that goes well beyond logos—and well beyond the typical TV ad for a new prescription drug. (Tracy Staton)

CANNES, FRANCE—As Lions Health wrapped up another year, attendees sifted their notes and pulled out a few common threads. Technology, for one, but not just for the sake of using a shiny new tool. Or as one Sanofi exec put it, "Technology in the service of creativity."

Marketing for good was another: aka, applying sharp communications brains to thorny public health problems. And then there were what Leigh Householder of Syneos Health called "secret messages," exemplified in one campaign using crossword puzzle clues to spread the word about elder abuse in a way abusive family members might not catch—but their puzzling seniors would.

Overall? It's a big world out there, but while appealing to global markets is key for pharma success, sometimes scaling up a creative local campaign is the way to really reach consumers and their doctors. Read on for more.


Doctors aren't robots. Forget the charts and graphs, sales reps. Lead with your heart instead. That’s the message from Attila Cansun, a chief marketing officer at the newly rebranded P&G Health. Adapting a consumer marketing framework dubbed LoveBrands, Cansun and his team use a similar evaluation-and-revamp for the company’s doctor relationships. Story

The trust tour. GW Pharmaceuticals' strategy for promoting its new cannabinoid drug Epidiolex to doctors sounded simple—earn their trust. But that's easier said than done, no thanks to Kim Kardashian and her CBD-themed baby shower. So the company decided to take physicians to the source, namely its massive marijuana greenhouse, and show them cannabis-derived drugs are the real deal. Story

Get out the tissues. In the U.S., when seasonal sneezes come on, there’s no mystery about what to do next: Go to the drugstore for allergy medication. But what if that decision weren’t automatic? For Sanofi, as it launched its drug Allegra over the counter in Brazil, the answer was a mobile, augmented-reality campaign that could outfit users with red noses and watery eyes, similar to a Snapchat filter. It even animated sneezes, complete with droplets on the phone screen. Story

Hemophilia, humor and a hipster host. A reality show about hemophilia? And it's a comedy? That would be Roche’s Genentech and ad agency 21 Gram’s new YouTube series called “Challenge Accepted.” Each 15-minute episode of the show, which premiered last week, features a different patient, coach and lesson targeting boys and young men with hemophilia. And it gets that lesson across using humor—and some magic tricks. Story


Big winner. It’s been a long three years since a pharma jury here handed out Grand Prix honors. But Monday night, GlaxoSmithKline and its ad agency McCann Health broke through with a mobile app called Breath of Life, used to detect chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in older adults in China. Eli Lilly, ViiV and Merck were among the other pharma winners. Story

No-ad advertising. Marketers need to think big. Like saving-the-world big. That’s the advice McCann Health’s global chief creative officer, Matt Eastwood, offered up to kick off the Cannes Lions Health confab Monday. And what that means to Eastwood is advertising that “may not look like advertising,” he said. “It’s advertising while doing good.” Story

New light on MS. Multiple sclerosis symptoms can be confusing: They differ person to person and even day to day for the same patients. Roche's Floodlight Open app aims to clear that confusion for individuals by gathering personal health data every day and delivering real-world evidence for broader understanding of the disease. Story

Procter & Gamble showed up for Cannes Lions Health—and no wonder. The consumer packaged goods giant recently bought Merck KGaA’s consumer health division and rebranded it as P&G Health. Now, with teams of brand managers and concept demos on display here, it's serving notice—at least to consumer healthcare companies—that it’s in play. Story


Shorted shortlist? The Pharma Lions shortlist for 2019 lives up to its name. Just 31 entries cleared the finalist bar this year, down from 53 last year. But it’s still good news for the 12 multinational pharmas in the running—and for the pharma marketers looking to eye the industry’s best at Monday night’s awards. Story

Breakout scouts. As Cannes Lions Health kicked off its sixth year Monday, attendees were looking for some breakouts. As in breakthrough technology, creativity that breaks barriers, groundbreaking global ideas and a chance to finally break with the backhanded compliment that Lions Health work is “good for pharma.” Story

Escaping the same-same. Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s roster of literal A-list clients—Audi, Absolut and AstraZeneca—earns it center stage at Lions Health with a consumer-to-pharma creative crossover pitch. Hint? Brand differentiation is job one, and to do that, drugmakers need to pull cliché imagery out by the root. Story

Heard around the Palais 

Winning outside the pharma and healthcare box. Johnson & Johnson and partners picked up the Grand Prix for Entertainment on Tuesday night for the film “5B.” The film about the nurses who founded and opened the first AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital, called Ward 5B in 1983 was picked up in May by Verizon for broader distribution and officially debuted June 14.
“5B” was created by Oscar-nominated director Dan Krauss and Saville Productions, known for its branded ad and film work. Saville tweeted in May after Verizon picked up “5B”: “The film is an HIV/AIDS crisis doc, commissioned by Johnson & Johnson, & shows how brands can authentically get behind global issues.” The film also won a Lions Health & Wellness silver statue on Monday night.

Stand up for nontraditional creative. Getting the green light for a brand film targeted at physicians at a pharma company is not for the faint of heart. Even the best ideas face multiple hurdles. AstraZeneca’s Lions Health award-winning "The Attack" film from last year highlighted the risk of repeat heart attacks, but was "that close" to being killed, said Kyriakos Konstantinidis, global strategy director at AstraZeneca. That's what his boss told him later after winning four more global awards and industry impact, feedback and successes rolled in. It helped that Konstantinidis understood the vision that ad agency Havas Lynx brought with its ideas—his father had worked in the film industry and he grew up in and around it. Konstantinidis and Havas' perseverance not only led to the creation of "The Attack," but another new disease awareness film about cardiovascular risks around Type 2 diabetes that debuted recently. That patient-targeted film features a fisherman talking about the dangers of heart disease for Type 2 patients while his boat engine stalls, noting, "That's how dangerous Type 2 diabetes is. It can cause your heart, your engine, to fail." Konstantinidis urged the audience and pharma in general to take risks, albeit calculated ones with a strategy meets creativity foundation. "When you're working in the pharmaceutical industry which has a very conservative approach to these sort of ideas, and you have your colleagues and peers coming to you (after the campaign) to say, apart from congratulations, 'How did you do that? We want to copy that, we want to do the same brief. ... What is the direction I need to take internally to make this a success in order to get the buy in?' Then you know you have created a new area," he said. 

Fighting fake news. Panelists from Johnson & Johnson, McCann Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tackled the thorny problem of combating disinformation about vaccines. "It won't be a TV campaign," said Seema Kumar, J&J's vice president for innovation in global health and science policy. Social media might play a role, but it's really peer-to-peer and face-to-face that's most important, the panelists decided. How to make that happen? "I'm challenging you," panel moderator Rajesh Mirchandani, chief communications officer of the UN Foundation, told the audience. 
In another session moderated by Conde Nast’s health chief Jen Mormile, Self editor in chief Carolyn Kylstra said their research found that while fake health news is not new—snake oil has been around a long time—it’s an issue because of social media and the rapid way disinformation now spreads, exacerbated by the lack of trust in authority figures. To combat it, Self is doubling down on health news editing, fact checking and vetting sources including celebrities. Meanwhile, co-panelist physician Esther Choo said doctors can do their part by going beyond traditional journal model of publish-and-done model. Today physicians need to follow up and make sure other scientists are misusing or misconstruing their work, she said.

VR for VR's sake. Too many pharma marketers are making the mistake of recruiting tech tools for jobs they can't do, or just using those tech tools poorly, said Sam Glassenberg, founder and CEO of LevelEx, which makes mobile games for physician training. For example, method-of-action presentations that used to be on big screens have moved into virtual reality. But zooming around a molecule in the virtual world while sitting still in the real one tends to make people nauseous. "The last thing you want a doctor to associate with your drug is nausea," Glassenberg said. The moral of the story is to use VR only when it's the only way to tell a particular story—and when you do, make it a spectator sport, he said.

Real-world evidence and technology are natural partners, said Alex Gilbert, head of partnerships at app developer Medopad, as he ticked off the ways his company’s working with life sciences companies such as Novartis to help collect the sort of patient data that can help drugmakers add new indications to existing drugs. “We’re now creating a living, breathing document of a patient," Gilbert said. “Your health record doesn’t have to be in the hospital. It’s here, created by you.”

Spending on real-world evidence has hit $1.48 billion, according to Simone Seymour, founder and CEO of the biometric textiles company Supa. Real-world evidence is “really hot right now” for personalizing products but “also for understanding how drugs are actually working.” Companies are tapping Supa’s tech—and its network of app users—to monitor and recruit patients for real-world evidence trials.

A GlaxoSmithKline toothpaste made to alleviate bleeding gums served as an example of why design should be at the heart of marketing in one session led by GSK's vice president of design and innovation Andrew Barraclough. "It's all about spitting blood," he noted, and blood imagery appeared on everything from the platelet-like motif on the toothpaste tube to the smartphone screen that started bloody and cleared from there. Then, in the Czech Republic, GSK flipped the idea to promote blood donations. "Don't spit blood, give blood" was the tagline for GSK's #bloodforgood campaign there.