Best Pharma Ads: The Sound Of Cancer Cells Dying

Image above from “The Most Beautiful Sound."

With the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity coming up (June 19-23), Pharma & Health Insider spoke withRich Levy, chief creative officer at Klick Health and a former Pharma Lions Jury president, about the show and his predictions of what to expect at this year’s confab. (Remarks edited for clarity and length.)

Pharma & Health Insider: You’ve been on Lions juries three times, and served as jury president in 2018. How has the environment at Cannes changed for the Pharma and Health & Wellness categories?

Rich Levy: When Health & Wellness and Pharma were first categories at Cannes [2015], they were a separate part of the show, in a separate building. You could see the entries over the weekend, and then Cannes started on Monday.

Over the years, as the work in Health & Wellness and Pharma improved, and we saw more and more mainstream advertisers and giant multinational companies like Unilever, Dell Technologies and Samsung having health and wellness initiatives, the categories became part of the main show.

But the topic of Health is sprinkled around the entire festival. For example, the Film Jury may be looking at films specifically aimed at health that have a health message. But now there are specific categories for pharmaceutical advertising, which has lots of regulations, and for the highly regulated industry of health & wellness.

P&H Insider: What trends should we expect to see at this year’s show?

Levy: Three things: the mainstreaming of health and wellness, AI and cultural diversity.

P&H Insider: Why has mainstreaming gotten so common?

Levy: The pandemic brought health and wellness right to the front of everyone’s conversation. Everyone was talking about their health, everyone was talking about co-morbidities, everyone understood the value of health in new ways.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that advertisers saw the trend of everyone talking about health. We saw many more initiatives from mainstream advertisers, not just pharmaceutical companies, or health and wellness companies, but mainstream companies talking about health and wellness. I think you’ll see that across the entire show.

P&H Insider: Can you give us an exampleof a good health and wellness campaign from a mainstream advertiser?

Levy: Dell Technologies did an incredible campaign called “I Will Always Be Me” [agency:  VMLY&R] specifically for voice banking. People who have specific diseases where they lose the ability to speak go to voice banking so they can type on a computer, and the computer will speak for them. The process used to include an arduous process where patients had to record thousands of words, but Dell came up with a way to make it very, very simple by having people read a specific story. This made voice banking much more accessible to more people.

P&H Insider: What about AI?

Levy: There are 15 speakers at Cannes this year whose specific topic is AI, ChatGPT, or things of an AI nature.  If you go back just a year or two years ago, there were virtually none. So I think we’ll see a lot of conversation around the future of creativity and AI.

P&H Insider: And cultural diversity?

Levy: I think some of the most powerful campaigns out there will have a DE&I initiative behind them.

P&H Insider: What pharma campaigns stand out to you this year?

Levy: The Most Beautiful Sound” was done for the American Society of Clinical Oncologists [agency: Grey New York]. One of the most difficult words to hear from oncologists are the words, “You have cancer.” According to the spot, “researchers at Harvard Medical School captured vibrations during cellular death and transcribed them into sounds.” So the society created an experience where, as people are going through their therapy, they can actually hear their cancer cells dying, and hear the progress that’s being made.

There’s also a pharma campaign called “Daniel’s Apartment” [agency: Sra. Rushmore S.A; client: GSK’s ViiV Healthcare]. Stigma still exists around HIV, even to this day. [This campaign] is trying to bring awareness that people living with HIV are just people living with HIV, they’re no different from you and me.

P&H Insider: Can you put in a word for your own entries from Klick Health?

Levy: Two campaigns we’ve put out this year have really captured the imagination of the public.

The Bridge” is an animated film about the bond between humans and pets, and how rescuing pets rescues people as well. One of the reasons I’m very proud of that is the craft behind the entry. The entry is beautiful, but the storytelling is equally beautiful.

The second is “Lifesaving Radio” [client: NextMed Health]. It uses audio, music, and AI, by creating an AI playlist that allows surgeons to work faster, be more accurate in their surgeries, and have better surgical outcomes.

P&H Insider: Anything else you’d like to add?

Levy: I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in person again this year, and let’s see if any of these predictions come true.

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