Health advertising: A testimony to our creative transformation?

India winning big at Cannes Lions three years in a row definitely speaks volumes about the creative juices flowing in the healthcare advertising segment

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Oct 16, 2018 8:47 AM

When Mumbai-based independent Medulla Communications bagged the Healthcare Agency of the Year at Lions Health in 2016, it was a first for the nation as well as the agency. Led by Praful Akali and Amit Akali, the agency that year bagged seven Pharma Lions in all — two gold, two silver, and three bronze. Their work on 'Last Laugh' for the Indian Association of Palliative Care got the Gold home. And with that win, the agency not only put India on the global map but also took health advertising in the country to another high.


At Cannes Lions, last year, McCann Health won a Grand Prix for Good in the Pharma category for ‘Immunity Charm’ followed by TBWA\India securing the Health Grand Prix for Good for ‘Blink to Speak’ this year. Winning big three years in a row definitely speaks volumes about the creative work coming out of this segment. We asked the healthcare heroes what this really means…


Shining on


Praful Akali, Founder and Managing Director of Medulla Communications, feels that India was already arriving on the global healthcare stage. “This year was like a massive ceiling to that because we won the second Grand Prix in a row at the Lions Healthcare. People are really respecting India for that. This year, the folks at the New York Festivals Advertising Awards were like we do live judging sessions everywhere, can we host one in India?”


Medulla Communication CCO Amit Akali signals that healthcare is the only category where India has been agency of the year. “India is definitely looked at from an award-point of view. From the non-award-point-of-view too, agencies are integrating health in everything they do.”  


Susan Joshi, Co-Founder, Havas Life Sorento, echoes the sentiments. “More and more brands are getting health at the centrestage of everything they do,” she states.


Reminiscing old times when the category was just establishing its roots, Joshi says, “The first time when we won an award in 2000, it was for Prescription Club where some pharma agencies participated. And now, the whole space of awards has changed a lot. It has become much bigger and purpose-driven. The stature has gone up. So the kind of work that is participating has also gone up.”


From ‘deficiencies’ to democratization


Akali (Amit) points out that since Cannes started healthcare, we started to get more democratised in a way that a lot of mainline agencies also started entering healthcare. “Healthcare has become an important category for India in the past 4-5 years. In healthcare, there is a pharma section and a healthcare section. And as you know, pharma healthcare this year was won by TBWA which is a generalised agency.”


Over time, to cater to rising demands, agencies launched separate healthcare wings. Last year, independent agency Sorento got acquired by Havas.


Joshi explains that going global suddenly became very important but Cannes was the game-changer. “Cannes has set the benchmarks for many people in India. And that has changed the way healthcare communications is done,” says Joshi. 


Rajesh Rai, Senior VP and Executive Creative Director, McCann Health, feels that not just the work in the category but the way juries judge the category that has dramatically changed, and this has been a big driver of growth. “Healthcare is really being looked up at now. When we started off, there were only two award shows. The juries here were not able to look at healthcare the way-- the understanding of the category and the understanding of the advertising part. The right mix of it is important, which is now there and this has fostered better creativity,” says Rai. 


Akali (Praful) opines that Indian healthcare advertising now is actually better than the best.  He feels that we’re a big market for these advertising companies. “As for the wins at Cannes, it’s been third year in a row for India. So, in fact, people are trying to understand what is it that is winning us all these awards,” he says. 



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