As most of you know, Cannes wrapped up another successful festival last week. What you may not know is that in the Pharma category (regulated work), there were only two Golds awarded. And neither was for a branded effort. For context, two years ago, when I judged Cannes, the Pharma jury only awarded 5 Golds, also none for branded efforts. Now I could stand on my soap box and chastise the industry (both clients and agencies), but instead, I’ll just say that the door is wide open for anyone and everyone to charge through it with bold, brave, innovative work. Leave no doubt, we at CDM are ready to charge through with you. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how best to do that.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few overall themes that I found interesting and thought you might, too. Apologies for the lengthy scribe.

Storytelling still rules

Who among us doesn’t like to taut our product’s efficacy story, the lifechanging impact it has on patients, or the unmet need in the category we are working tirelessly to address? We change lives. We help people. Our stories are the most human, heartfelt, and hopeful of all. And we need to find the most powerful, innovative, and compelling ways to tell them.

Learning Corp “One Word

For people with traumatic brain injuries, just searching for that one word can be an epic struggle. The Learning Corp helps these patients train their brain and find their voice. This animated film tells one patient’s story in such exquisite detail that would never have been as powerful had it simply been her talking to camera. 

Peruvian Ministry of Healthy “The lifesaving soap opera”

Peru has one of the lowest rates of organ donors in Latin America. Oddly, though, it has one of the highest rates of soap opera viewers. Combining these two disparate facts brought about a creative solution that told a story the nation could not ignore. 

VIIV Healthcare “As much as I can”

By 2020, 1 out of every 2 gay black men will be infected with the HIV virus. To bring this startling statistic to life, VIIV created an immersive storytelling experience where the audience got to interact with characters (some real people from the community) and not just hear their stories, but intimately connect with them. Read more here:

Authenticity can change the world—and build a brand

Today’s ever-increasing litany of media channels gives every person with a device and internet connection the ability to tell their story and express who they really are. For brands to make lasting connections, they need to reflect their own authenticity in their messaging and platforms.

Johnson&Johnson “5B”

To show their longstanding support of nurses, J&J went back in time to tell the remarkable story of those on the front lines of the 1980s Aids crisis.

Ikea “ThisAbles”

Affordable furniture brand Ikea proved it truly did make furniture for everyone with its ThisAbles campaign. The initiative began as an idea from an employee with cerebral palsy at ad agency McCann Tel Aviv who adapted 13 existing Ikea products to make them easier to use for people of varying abilities.

Finding a shared value can increase market share

Social consciousness reached new heights at the Festival this year as lost faith in government and media pushed consumers to rely on brands to take a stand in a meaningful way. And those brands that stepped up saw great impact and results.


This Polish online publication took a Titanium and Glass Lions Grand Prix for purchasing a porn magazine just to shut it down.


The French supermarket chain broke the law—and got it overturned—with organic produce grown from illegal seeds (owned by agricultural giants). They took home a Grand Prix for Creative Effectiveness because of it.


The iconic sports brand moved away from mass media and into the local community with an effort to provide a safe haven for kids in Chicago, where basketball courts had become a playground for gunfire. Nike moved beyond the quick-turn pop-up shop and partnered with the City of Chicago to renovate a dilapidated church, converting it into a basketball training facility with courts, lockers and gym. With rights to the facility for a month, Nike built local fans in a city where basketball is a religion, and then turned it back over to the city to run for the community.

Technology isn’t a fad

In case you thought it might be (kidding), Cannes continued to prove that it’s here to stay. From AR and VR to AI and geotargeting, brands embraced tech as a way to get closer to their customers.

Burger King “Whopper Detour”

This is genius, if not a little insidious. The fast food chain used geotargeting to deliver a 1¢ coupon for a Whopper to its mobile app that could only be opened if you were within feet of a McDonalds. The initiative took home the top honor, the Titanium Grand Prix.

GSK “Breath of Life”

GSK and their team in China tapped into a cultural observation about the art of Chinese blow art to create an interactive app that, when you blow into your smart phone, measures a person’s lung capacity to help people with chronic pulmonary lung disease.

Be bigger than your brand

Consumers today expect a lot out of brands. Beyond quality and reliability, they want utility and higher order benefits. In pharma, that means if you can’t cure what ails them, you can find ways to cure the challenges the come with the ailment.

Wavio “See Sound”

This brilliant product was actually created by an ad agency to address an unmet need in the deaf community. The device helps deaf people actually see noise by using AI technology to recognize over 70 different sounds (fire alarm, doorbell, a crying baby) and send a text message to a smart device.

Eli Lilly “Get Up Alarm Clock”

For cancer patients going through chemotherapy, there are days when it can be hard finding the motivation to just get out of bed. While Eli Lily certainly has products to help fight the disease, they recognized that there was so much more to the patients’ lives. So, they created an alarm clock that projects words and images of loved ones on the ceiling, providing every patient a reason to get up each day and keep fighting.

There were many more themes coming out of the south of France that could be applicable to our day-to-day work – accessibility, inclusivity, humanity, empathy, sustainability, equality, partnership. The above is meant as thought starters and the beginnings of conversations. I hope you enjoyed them and found them inspiring.

And for those who have never been to Cannes, I highly encourage you to go sometime. I promise you it’s not a boondoggle. It is some of the most inspiring, motivating, thought-provoking time you will spend in this business.

Gary Scheiner
Executive Vice President, Executive Creative Director