Novartis, GSK, Pfizer and AbbVie among pharma short-listers at Lions Health

Hanging in the gallery of short-listed work was Novartis' entry, a performance art piece by sand artist Anna Strelkove supporting its type 2 diabetes med Galvus.

CANNES, France—Don’t look for the most visible of pharma campaigns on this year’s Cannes Lions Health short list. Though Big Pharma brand and awareness campaigns peppered the register of finalists, the recognition went to print and digital efforts rather than TV commercials.

A who's who of Big Pharma companies got the nod, plus some smaller drugmakers such as Italy's Recordati.

June Laffey, who headed up the pharma jury, said health specialist agencies “are doing some great work” and the jurists “wanted to make a statement of the work in pharma.”

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Merck & Co.’s long-running Merck for Mothers awareness campaign made the business-to-business short list, with a digital video, “Push,” featuring mothers-to-be around the world, from Africa to the U.S.

The overall Merck campaign is aimed at improving prenatal and maternal health, and with its visual storytelling, this video depicted the outcomes—happy and sad—of these women’s pregnancies. In one archetypal tableau, a young mother holds her infant for the first time. In another, a husband weeps.

In branded work targeted to healthcare providers, AbbVie, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Recordati were the short-listers. One was AbbVie’s iPad presentation for Humira, “Envisioning Erosion,” designed to help rheumatologists see the joint damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

Recordati’s direct mail campaign “Game of Pain,” on behalf of its med Ortoton, employed three separate mailings, beginning with a card deck depicting a variety of patients and their pain-relief needs.

A Novartis performance art piece by sand artist Anna Strelkove called “The Time Is Now” supported Galvus, its diabetes drug, at sites such as the European Society for the Study of Diabetes meeting last fall.

GSK picked up several short-list nods, including two for rheumatoid arthritis awareness efforts. The "Opera" and "Shakespeare" campaigns depicted bones carved into busts of opera singers and actors, respectively, with the tagline, "RA patients aren't being dramatic." A third honored a collateral campaign for the respiratory med Anoro, “Mark’s Story,” centered on a fictional patient; the agency created a journal that illustrated his daily life with the condition.

Glaxo's HIV unit ViiV Healthcare also picked up a short-list nod for an awareness video, "Changing the Face," that encouraged doctors to test for the virus.

In branded efforts meant for patients, a Pfizer campaign for Viagra in the United Arab Emirates, “Nothing Beats the Original,” was the sole finalist. The mockumentary featured a character, Magdy, who wants to live large, but can’t afford it; his luxury car is a jalopy with the letters “BMW” wired to the grill, and his “jacuzzi” is the plastic-lined bed of a pickup truck. In the bedroom, though? He only trusts “the original.” The tagline warns against counterfeits—and Viagra is among the most counterfeited meds in the world.

On the unbranded side, Boehringer Ingelheim, AstraZeneca and Shire were among the drugmakers represented. Boehringer’s “Split Second” film supporting Pradaxa was the only finalist in the unbranded communication category. The video highlighted the fact that, for patients on an anticoagulant, traumatic injury is especially dangerous. In it, an older couple suffers a car accident, and on-screen text points out that a reversal agent can make emergencies easier to treat. Pradaxa is the only drug in its class to have an FDA-approved reversal agent.

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Synagis maker AstraZeneca highlighted respiratory illness in two short-listed entries—one integrated campaign, “Little Lungs” and an event/experiential push by the same name—is up against Shire and its EyeLove animation/visual effects entry.

Roche was a short-lister in the patient education category, with a clinical trial promotion. The Swiss drugmaker produced an animated film to recruit for its Aviation study testing a med for kids on the autism spectrum.

Laffey pointed to the intensive regulatory scrutiny that pharma promotions face, saying that the creative people developing drug advertising have “so many layers of rules and regulation  

“We can create work that saves lives,” Laffey told reporters during a press conference. “We wanted to make sure we sent out the right signals about what is possible and what can be possible in the future in this highly regulated space.”

This year's Cannes Lions Health coverage is brought to you by Klick Health. All editorial content is written and produced independently of our sponsor.