Solution-based thinking is important in Pharma category: Praful Akali, Cannes juror

Akali, Founder & Managing Director, Medulla Communications, tells us what will he be looking for in the entries, the trends that he has noticed in the Health and Pharma category and more

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Jun 4, 2019 8:35 AM

It is his first Cannes outing as a juror but he is no new face at Cannes. His agency Medulla Communications won India its first ‘Agency of the Year’ title, and he charmed audiences last year as a speaker there along with the late Pooran Isarsingh of the ‘Last Laugh’ fame. Praful Akali, Founder & Managing Director, Medulla Communications, India is judging the Pharma Lions this year.

exchange4media caught up with Akali to understand what will he be looking for in the entries, the trends that he has noticed in the Health and Pharma category and more.

Edited Excerpts

What differentiates the Cannes Lions jury experience from that of the other big international award shows?

The selection of people is far more uniform. There is a great diversity of people that Cannes gives special attention to, so the conversations can be really interesting. Second is that they keep a lot of time for discussions between the jury members; four days in the very least, which is quite exhaustive and enriching. So I am super excited.

What are the things you will be looking out for in the entries in the Pharma category?

It has to be solution-based thinking. While the creative bit is important, what would really work for me is to know whether a piece of communication has solved a problem for the target audience in some way. One of the best examples is Savlon Chalk Sticks. Another problem in Pharma Lions is that one tends to focus so much on solution-based thinking that you lose out on the basics of a creative campaign. Also an important factor is scalability of the idea. I need to know that a piece of communication hasn’t been made just to look good in awards but can be used in a big way for real.

Which are some of the best ideas in the category over the past few years, globally?

In 2016, Ogilvy’s campaign for Philips-- Breathless Choir-- won the Grand Prix for Good. It was for its portable oxygen concentrator SimplyGo Mini. It was a brilliant piece of work that is still talked about. A group of people with serious breathing trouble were asked to use the Philips device and made to sing in a choir and perform on the stage. Remember, these were people who could barely speak earlier because of breathing issues.

What are the trends that you have seen in the Health and Pharma category in the past year?

It has to be solution-based thinking, focus-led creativity and brand purpose. Basically, the communication doesn’t come so much from the product as it comes from actually having a purpose in the lives of patients and doctors. So, that’s really big. ‘Life-changing creativity’ is the motto and tagline of Lion’s Health. So, that is something which is very important to the jury every single year.

After winning in the Pharma category in a big way for three straight years, why did Medulla send only one entry last year? Is participating in Cannes becoming an even more expensive affair?

One is, of course that we had been winning for three years in a row and appearing in the top three agencies list for all three years. So we had proven whatever we had to prove. Secondly, it’s an incredible amount of effort and investment especially for an agency our size. It’s just a lot to take on every single year three years in a row. So, we wanted to relax a little bit, focus on business and just do really awesome work. This year, however, we are sending three entries to Cannes between Medulla and What’s Your Problem.

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