‘Nothing exposes the human condition like Pharma category’

Parixit Bhattacharya, Managing Partner- Creative, TBWA, talks about his favourite work this year, India’s chances & his first time on the jury for Pharma category at Cannes Lions

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Jun 1, 2021 8:55 AM
Parixit Bhattacharya

He is the man behind India’s Grand Prix winning entry – Blink to Speak in 2018 and this year he is on the jury for Pharma Lions at Cannes Lions Live. Parixit Bhattacharya, Managing Partner- Creative, TBWA talks about his favourite work this year, India’s chances and his first time as a juror at the world’s biggest festival of creativity.

You were a speaker at Cannes Lions 2019 but this is your first time as a jury member, what are you looking forward to the most?

I feel nothing exposes the human condition like the Pharma category as far as award shows are considered. So I am really looking forward to seeing some truly life-changing creativity.

I am also looking forward to the jury discussions. These have a way of reminding one about how beautiful it is that people can think so differently yet be in the service of a common agenda. Also, I hope to absorb as many insights into the Pharma marketing world as I can as I am not a specialist.

What are the qualities that you would like to see in the entries in the Pharma category? Any favourite campaigns?

It would be lovely to see work that helps the human spirit soar. This would definitely be one of the things that I would watch out for in the work. I would also look for work that uses technology and craft to go around the constraints in Pharma marketing. An interesting trend I am seeing in the work under Pharma is that there are a lot many animation pieces this time because it is difficult to cast real people here. One piece of work I saw in another show that has captured my imagination is Sick Beats – it is the world’s first music powered airway clearance vest for cystic fibrosis. A heart-breaking problem solved through life affirming creativity, smart use of tech and nifty design.

This is the first time when entries from two very different years will be judged together…what are the specific challenges you are facing because of that?

The work is judged in chronological order. So a juror is aware of the context, trends and the global condition to be fair to the entries. 

India has consistently done well in both Health and Pharma categories with a Healthcare Agency of the Year title in 2016, and two Grand Prix in the following years, but we didn’t win a single Lion in Pharma last year, what went wrong and can we make up for it this year?

We have a history of good work in the category but what goes up must come down until it goes up again. I am not particularly familiar with the Pharma work from India this year but I feel we have very strong Healthcare outfits here and will be winning multiple Grand Prix trophies again. Another factor is that India still has a lot more regulation than many other economies in Pharma. But it is opening up. Also earlier Pharma and digital didn’t go hand in hand, but that is a trend we are witnessing now, even in India. For e.g. you will see a lot of purely digital platforms meant to engage with patients suffering from a certain condition, support groups etc. The heavy lifting part by the agencies is probably coming to an end and we will soon begin to see the fruits of it. So my guess is, in the next two years, you will see some sparkling work in the category.

Which are the categories where you feel India has a better chance to win in as compared to the others?

I don’t know what work has been entered by the agencies but I feel there are a few really strong pieces of work in Film, Digital and PR. But it is Cannes so a surprising result is expected. 

Do you feel a Digital only Cannes Lions festival can be as exciting as the physical event at the Palais Des festivals? What will you miss the most?

Clearly, it won’t be the same. Cannes has an infectious energy. It is like living in a Rocky film for a week. Above everything else, I will miss running into long lost friends while rushing to get to the Palais on time for a session. Such conundrum.

What has been your most memorable Cannes experience?

Can I just say ‘What happens in Cannes stays in Cannes’? There are so many. I’ve been going to Cannes from the first year of my career i.e. 2001 when we won Young Lions, and they say your first experience is always the best. Then there was the time when I was leaving the famous Gutter Bar at Cannes to head back to my hotel when I bumped into Rob Reilly (now the Global CCO of WPP). We chatted about Crispin Porter Bogusky, the ad agency which many of us have grown up on. I would bring up an exemplary piece of work and he would tell me the story behind it. We spoke next to a pillar by the Martinez for over an hour and none of us was drinking! 

Pull out quote 

My most memorable Cannes experience was when I bumped into Rob Reilly (now the Global CCO of WPP). We spoke next to a pillar by the Martinez for over an hour about various campaigns from the past and none of us was drinking!


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