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Lights, Pharma, Action

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

Words by Kirstie Turner

Pharma has taken a seat in the director’s chair and they are ready to make their mark on the silver screen. The Cannes Lions sessions on movie campaigns in pharma highlight the companies who are using creative marketing to tackle some of the unspoken issues in health. There is huge potential in movie campaigns that pharma should embrace to deliver an Oscar-worthy marketing performance.

It is all about paving the way forward: being brave, being bold, taking risks and not being afraid

AstraZeneca’s spine-tingling movie ‘The Attack’ uses an implied shark attack to illustrate the fear that encompasses a second heart attack. It encapsulates Hollywood drama and suspense; shots that play homage to seminal thriller ‘Jaws’ cleverly pique a popular culture interest, instilling a fear that many can relate to. The purpose? To demonstrate to doctors how scary a second heart attack is for patients.

The Cannes Lions session ‘An A-Z on Creating a Blockbuster Film for AZ’ dives into the film, as Kyriakos Konstantinidis, Global Strategy Director, AstraZeneca, says: “Patient centricity is a top priority. We strongly believe that no one should experience a second heart attack.” Pharma must take a leap of faith and do something unique; however, it may not be easy to convince the industry that movies are the logical next step. Konstantinidis advises: “All these challenges exist, and you must navigate through and engage different people to put your message forward.”

Another rousing example is Celgene’s film ‘This is Axiom’, which takes us on the journey of a lost astronaut and explores the barriers to getting her home, such as bureaucratic red tape. The mission is a metaphor for the complexities of managing healthcare; the astronaut is actually a patient undergoing treatment. Kevin Loth, Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Policy, Worldwide Markets, Celgene, says: “Axiom has been a great vehicle for stimulating discussions on complex issues such as patient empowerment, value of innovation, prioritisation in healthcare, importance of teamwork, and the price of medicines.”

Movies offer accessibility for patients, as Loth continues: “It is the ability to stimulate these discussions that is giving Celgene the opportunity to influence the image of our industry. I think this medium is appealing as it allows interpretation and thought – as opposed to pushing a one-sided corporate message that turns many people off immediately.”

TV is not exempt from pharma’s new strategy of tackling tough topics. Genentech’s ‘Challenge Accepted’, featured in the session ‘Inside the World’s First Binge-Worthy Campaign’, is a comedy series that uses entertainment to inspire and educate people. Suha Patel, Marketing Principal, Hemophilia, Genentech, summarises the ethos behind the project: “We want to help the patient beyond just the medicine”.

Creator Frank Mazzola, Chief Creative Officer, 21GRAMS, says: “Health does not like to be the first at anything; but when you do it it’s an amazing thing and you hopefully open the door for other people.” The growing trend of incorporating entertainment is something new and unknown, and therefore risky, but Patel asks the audience to consider: “Do you want to be courageous or comfortable?”

The industry needs to roll out the red carpet for creative marketing; as Richards concludes: “It is all about paving the way forward: being brave, being bold, taking risks and not being afraid.” Movies and TV provide the opportunity to make content that is provocative, to help pharma to innovate and inspire. It’s time to call ‘Action!’ on a new era of marketing.

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