No pharma Grand Prix—again—at Cannes Lions Health, but record number of awards for drugmakers

Cannes Lion Health’s Pharma jury chief Rich Levy speaks to the press while Health & Wellness jury head R. John Fidelino looks on. (Beth Snyder Bulik)

CANNES, France—For the second year in a row, there is no grand prize winner in the pharma category at Cannes Lions Health. The big idea award, called the Grand Prix, eluded the field again , despite a pharma-heavy short list.

But while pharma marketers may be disappointed, they still have plenty of reason to celebrate. Sixteen different pharma companies made the awards shortlist and 10 won gold, silver or bronze Lions. That’s a sharp uptick from last year when only nine were finalists and three picked up awards.

Of those, seven silver or bronze awards went to U.S. efforts for six different drugmakers.

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Boehringer Ingelheim won two Cannes Lions Health statues—a silver and a bronze—both for its Stiolto Respimat print work. Bayer, Takeda, Eli Lilly and Biogen each picked up one silver award, while Novartis nabbed a bronze for its U.S. division and another bronze for its Argentina work. The branded products featured were Xofigo (Bayer), Trintellix (Takeda) and Spinraza (Biogen).

GlaxoSmithKline in China and AstraZeneca in United Arab Emirates were also bronze winners. U.K.-based Mundipharma picked up a gold Lion award, as did medical device company Cochlear in Australia.

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Rich Levy, chief creative officer at FCB Health and the Cannes pharma jury president this year, said no single piece of outstanding work lived up to the idea of life-changing creativity across multiple mediums. But the diversity and depth seen in the entries—and number of pharma companies included this year among the finalists and award winners—marked significant achievements, he said.

“Sixteen different pharma companies on the shortlist is amazing,” Levy said. “Of the 20 largest pharma companies globally, I think we had half of them. And that’s incredible when you see work coming from Big Pharma which you didn’t see before. In the pharma jury before it was pro bono work, charity work, ministries, but now it’s Big Pharma and branded.”

On the Health & Wellness side of the competition, the jury awarded 39 gold, silver and bronze awards, and the Grand Prix in that category going to Montefiore’s “Give Your Heart” campaign, designed to encourage organ donation.

RELATED: Cannes Lions Health: Merck, Novartis, Pfizer and 15 more pharmas nab shortlist honors

With more distinct lines drawn between the Pharma and Health & Wellness categories, fewer pharma companies put their entries into the health subcategory. Four pharmas made the Health & Wellness shortlist and two won bronze awards: Reckitt Benckiser for a Mucinex campaign and Bayer for a life sciences pro campaign in Germany.

FCB Health won honors as healthcare network of the year, and the agency of the year was Havas Lynx Europe. 

Hope for more pharma company awards and better visibility for industry work has been a common talking point in what's being seen as a transition year as Lions Health integrated into the larger Cannes Lions show and worked to refocus its award categories.

“We felt an obligation on the pharma jury to get pharma right and really reflect the work we in the pharma industry do on a day-in and day-out basis,” Levy said. “Going forward, I hope to see double the number of entries next year. ... People were a little confused by the categories, and seeing the shortlist and the winners should clarify that and [attract] more entries next year.”