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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Creativity with a strong conscience

Written by: | | Dated: Thursday, July 18th, 2019


By Emily Spilko, Executive Creative Director, Evoke

Jury member for 2019 Pharma Lions at The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity


Answer this: If you think about what you did over the last 10 hours or the last 10 days or the last 10 months, can you say with confidence that you truly contributed to work that matters? Work that represents the underrepresented? Work that breaks stigmas? Work that builds bridges to greater empathy and understanding? Work that doesn’t talk at people living with a disease, but speaks to them? Work that values everyone’s well-being?

Emily Spilko

That is the kind of work that won at Cannes Lions 2019 in the pharma category. This year’s work had a strong creative conscience, guided by a moral compass to do right.

It wasn’t technology for technology sake. It wasn’t fluff. It was empathetic. It was inclusive. It was completely in touch with its audience. It was brave. It was emotionally intelligent. And wow, it was so amazing to be a jury member on the front lines of it all, getting to see it first-hand, with a roomful of other jurors from around the world. The entire experience, and especially the work, reaffirmed my desire to work in the pharma space. My career could have taken me to many different places, but I ended up here, where I can make a real impact on the health and wellness of others.

Back to Cannes. Here, a few highlights from the work that medaled in Pharma:

U= U from ViiV Healthcare let us know that “there’s nothing to see here” and people living with HIV are doing just that—living. This work truly broke the stigma that can follow an HIV diagnosis and turned it on its shameful head. 

The UFOlogist, brought to you by Hermes Pardini Brazil, elevated the importance of truth telling in the face of fake news. This radio spot forced us to think about the sometimes highly-controversial vaccination issue through humor, sophistication and damn good copywriting.

One Word, from the Learning Corp. gave people post-stroke a voice, taking us on a wild ride that showed us just how difficult it can be for them to find the words they need to say.

There was Reverse, from Merck for Mothers, that told us that when it comes to childbirth, we are literally going backwards. It’s a fact, more women die during childbirth today than they did 20 years ago.

As Much as I Can, another effort from ViiV Healthcare, brought a live event into cities where black men are most affected by HIV. These men are ostracized by their communities, their churches, and their families, and this event immersed its audience in those environments in places like Jackson, Mississippi and Baltimore, Maryland. It brought the audience into the story, giving them more than a front-row seat to the struggle these men endure and persevere through. To see a group take on this topic with such bravery—where it is needed most—was humbling.  

And finally, the Pharma Grand Prix, the first Grand Prix awarded after a three-year jury holdout, went to GlaxoSmithKline’s Breath of Life. Over 100 million (yes, million) adults in Shanghai are affected by COPD. To them, losing their breath is simply part of life, part of getting older. Breath of Life let them know that it may be something more—and something they can treat. This incredible idea put a simple and accessible self-diagnostic tool into the hands of millions. And it did it in a relevant way, blending historical Chinese art and easy-to-use technology. In mere seconds, with a simple breath, the user can see if COPD is a possibility for them—and find out what they can and should do next.

Those are just a few of the highlights from my unforgettable week as a Pharma jury member. There were more, but I have a word count and you have good, important, meaningful work to get to.






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