Olivia Parker
Jun 19, 2019

Triple winners McCann Health: "We're at the top of our game"

CANNES IN SHORTS: Global chief creative officer Matt Eastwood and Wendy Chan of McCann Health Shanghai on the campaign that won them the first Pharma Grand Prix in three years—and the first Pharma Grand Prix for China ever.

Matt Eastwood said McCann Health's triple win at Cannes Lions 2019 is a "reassertion" of the agency's creative prowess. 

The Shanghai branch of the agency collected the Pharma Grand Prix for its 'Breath of Life' campaign for GSK, the first Grand Prix awarded in three years. This proves the worth of the award, said Eastwood, who joined the agency six months ago from JWT. "A lot of health agencies had given up, wondering if it was ever going to happen." 

Developed by Wendy Chan and Samson Du, executive creative director and group head of the agency, respectively, 'Breath of Life', which also won a Gold Lion in Pharma, allows WeChat users to test their lung capacity and check for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that affects around 100 million adults in China and is worsened by smoking and pollution.

The enticing element of the project is that a 'blow painting' image of a tree forms when you have made your exhale into the phone: bigger if the exhale is strong, smaller if not. The user receives a score on the strength of their lung capacity and is advised to seek help if they might be at risk of COPD, but they also get a pretty, highly shareable picture, embedded with a QR code allowing others to take their own test. 

Testing the 'Breath of Life' app; not managing to make a very large tree

Eastwood said he particularly liked the fact that the project combined modern technology with traditional art: blow painting—in which ink is blown across paper into shapes—has a substantial history in China. "These guys were very careful not to design a piece of tech that was initimidating," he said, important given how many older people are affected by COPD. 

When she found out the campaign had won a Grand Prix, Chan said she "cried, then screamed, then cried again," for about an hour. She hopes the win will set an example to other creatives and enable the agency to help more people for clients. 

Eastwood said the win would "have to have an impact", even though clients aren't always known to care about awards. "On the face of it they dont, they will never say awards are important, but I think what they want is to work with the 'hottest agencies in country'. And one thing that designates who the hot agency is is awards success." 

This will be compounded by the other two parts of the aforementioned triple win: McCann Health Shanghai being named Cannes Lions Healthcare Agency of the Year, and McCann Health at large winning Cannes Lions Healthcare Network of the Year. 

Chan said the wins would also help break down another piece of the stereotype about Chinese agency's lack of creatviity. Things are "slowly changing," she commented. She hoped this would send the message that being creative is important in itself, as well as trying to solve business problems. 

China's reputation as an advanced market for such healthcare tech and campaigns is growing at Cannes, Eastwood added. He said that in almost all global pitches he's attended of late, clients have wanted a point of view on China. "The conversation from agencies in general and networks is that China the next frontier...There are things in health happening in China that we think will come back and influence western culture, in the USA in particular, around social media and health and how hundreds of millions of people in China are accessing healthcare through social media. That is a trend that I think will push back the other way." 

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