Robert Sawatzky
Jun 20, 2017

How a simple charm bracelet outshone technology in Cannes

Pharma jury president: "we called it the ultimate wearable."

How a simple charm bracelet outshone technology in Cannes

“The work this year was amazing” says June Laffey, president of this year’s Cannes Lions Pharma jury. There were strong advances in work around multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.  There was technology pulled into health initiatives in a meaningful way, using VR and wearables. 

But what stole the show was a simple charm bracelet with individual coloured beads representing each vaccine a child has been given, to be used in rural Afghanistan where medical records are often non-existent.

“Things that touched the heart and made a difference on a wide scale” made the most impact on jury members, Laffey explained.  The charm had that in spades. “It took the breath of the jury away,” she said.

The idea was simple but ingenious. Laffey, who is ECD for McCann Health SEA and Australia, explains that the idea came from an Indian tradition. Harshit Jain, McCann Health India’s SVP and country manager, happened to be in a room with his 8-month old son along with Dan Carucci, the president of Global Health Consulting. 

Dr. Harshit Jain with his son wearing a bracelet

Carucci asked Jain what the simple bracelet on his son’s wrist was for and Jain explained it was a symbol of protection to ward off evil, a circle of string with a single round 'eye'. Between them they suddenly wondered aloud how great it would be if they could take that and make it something bigger—a bracelet that controlled disease. Jain then took the project on, developing it with WorldGroup.

But it was in applying the concept to Afghanistan that it achieved greater significance. With rural health centers few and far between, many children die of preventable diseases due to immunizations not being kept up, especially among nomadic groups. Often they don’t go to the same doctor and medical records get lost. So the bracelet became a visual data piece, allowing doctors to communicate with one another about health records.

Laffey says it also worked because culturally mothers in Afghanistan want their children to have what others do, so it caught on quickly. “It was so culturally significant in so many ways,“ said Laffey. “[The jury] called it the ultimate wearable."

Cannes Lions Pharma jury president June Laffey

She explained how during Cannes Lions judging system, there’s a point where the jury looks at how they’ve scored the shortlist. She says what happens is you put the top contenders, then it filters down to the bottom. When they looked down at the list, they found that eight of the top 10 results were for 'Immunity charm'. 

“It was so awesome that the jury was so aligned that this should stand out,” Laffey said.“I felt the love in the room for the work.”

Laffey is adamant the bracelet will save lives and she feels this should send a message to the industry.

“This could easily have been done by a vaccine company," she says. "We want to inspire pharma companies to do more. From a creative point of view they can go even further.”

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