VMLY&R and product innovation win big with Cannes Pharma and Health Grand Prix – AdAge.com

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By Ad Age Staff – 4 sec ago
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WPP’s VMLY&R took two of three Cannes Grand Prix in the Pharma and Health & Wellness categories, where juries put a heavy emphasis on product innovation and work that has the potential to be scaled in more markets around the world.
The Pharma Grand Prix went with work from VMLY&R, New York, that wasn’t an ad—and for that matter wasn’t a pharmaceutical. It was for user experience work, titled  “I Will Always Be Me,” promoting an online voice banking tool used by people with motor neurone disease developed for Dell Technologies and Intel.
Motor neurone disease is a fatal condition that robs people of their voices before it ultimately kills them. Jury President Brett O’Connor, founder and executive creative director of VCCP Health, explained that the “Book That Banks Your Voice” condenses a process that used to take “three months of arduous work into 30 minutes. Not only that, but they did it in a very emotional, storytelling way. When a patient has limited time, to give them that time back, is there anything more precious than that?” O’Connor asked.
Much of the work the jury considered was about COVID, he said. “Because there was a bit of sea of sameness coming through, it’s quite hard to distinguish. I think this is why [“I Will Always Be Me”] actually rose to the top.”
O’Connor said he was encouraged “to see how brands and companies are really focusing on what they can do, not just to sell products, but to solve problems and make life better.”
This Lion, too, went to a technical innovation: “The Killer Pack,” also known as the Maxx Flash Mosquito Repellent Coil in product innovation, from VMLY&R, Mumbai. The product includes a non-toxic coil that repels mosquitos inside the home and then, when the pack is disposed of—essentially when it degrades in garbage dumps or left in standing water outside the home—kills mosquito larva and keeps them from breeding. It’s aimed at combatting the estimated 400 million annual cases of dengue in India, per the World Health Organization.
Patricia Corsi, jury president and chief marketing, digital and information officer of Bayer Consumer Health, said the product’s appeal comes in part because it plays on an existing habit—use of mosquito coils widely in Indian homes—to solve a major problem more thoroughly.
A diverse jury came from Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America, Corsi said, “which made for really great discussions in terms of the context and cultural view, which made a big difference in terms of choosing the winners.” It also helped foster a diverse group of winners from 16 countries, she said.
“We had very intense and animated discussions in our teams, because we had so many rare cases,” she said. But one thing Maxx Flash had going for it was that it can scale. “This is not only necessary in India, where this case comes from,” Corsi said. “This can really be expanded in many other regions. We believe, frankly, these ideas need to grow, and it’s going to save money.”
“Lil Sugar-Master of Disguise” came from Area 23, an IPG Health Network company in New York, for the group Hip-Hop Public Health. It’s a health awareness campaign designed to teach youth—and their parents —the many disguised forms that sugar can take on food labels, with the goal of reducing diabetes in the Black community by reducing consumption of sugar.
The Master of Disguise theme includes personifying the 150 obscure names used to identify sugar on ingredient labels, from corn syrup to maltodextrin. Hip-hop artists including Chuck D of Public Enemy, Doug E. Fresh and Daryl McDaniels of Run DMC created music videos about some of the disguised sugar characters, and an app uses gaming, letting kids point a smartphone camera at an ingredient label to show and digitally collect, as many characters as they can.
“What I loved about this campaign first and foremost was the impact of it,” said Sueann Tannis, jury president and senior director of integrated communications at the United Nations Foundation. “It reached 3 million students across 5,000 schools in New York.”
Potential for scale here played a major role in the win. “When we think about global health, we realize that this campaign can be scaled up pretty much in any language,” Tannis said, “and be replicated across the world to really raise the bar on nutrition and health literacy among kids and also among parents.”
In this article:
Jack Neff, editor at large, covers household and personal-care marketers, Walmart and market research. He’s based near Cincinnati and has previously written for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bloomberg, and trade publications covering the food, woodworking and graphic design industries and worked in corporate communications for the E.W. Scripps Co.

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