GSK app snags Cannes Pharma Grand Prix

The 'Breath of Life' app helps detects whether someone has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Published On
Jun 18, 2019

Editor's Pick

An ad for an innovative app from GlaxoSmithKline that lives entirely on China’s popular WeChat messaging service took home the Pharma Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

The app, called "Breath of Life" and created by McCann Shanghai, allows people to test whether they have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. People who suffer from COPD have shortness of breath, which they often mistake as a natural part of aging. The test involves blowing into a phone’s microphone, which is then recorded to produce a sound wave. This in turn is fed to an algorithm, which is used to determine the person’s approximate lung volume; if the result is lower than 70 percent, a hospital check is recommended.

McCann Shanghai says more than 100 million adults in China are affected by COPD, yet less than 7 percent are properly diagnosed. Robin Shapiro, jury president and global president of TBWA\WorldHealth, says jurors went to extreme lengths to make sure the app actually worked and wasn’t some agency gimmick.

“We thought about that for every entry,” Shapiro said in regards to agencies trying to game the system with tech that doesn’t work. “We didn’t want to have an embarrassment in our hands so we very much studied the data and tried to prove it.”

The app only exists in China, Shapiro said, so the group jumped through several hoops to test whether it actually worked. “We double- and triple-checked our work,” she said.

To help encourage Chinese people to use the app, McCann Shanghai leveraged the idea of the traditional Chinese art form of blow-painting–which involves blowing on paint to create images of flowers or trees. When users breathe into the phone, the app creates a blow-painted tree. The larger and more robust the tree that appears, the better the user's lung volume.

The jury selected McCann Shanghai’s work because “it struck the right chord,” says Shapiro. “It did so many things to take the business forward; it was tech with a purpose. It [also] included [Chinese] blow art, which is culturally relevant.”

“Anything but a traditional campaign is more of what we are not seeing,” she added in regards to trends from this year’s submissions. “We are seeing so much more events, experiential campaigns that are breaking out of traditional” norms.


Jun 18, 2019

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