Philips Breathless choir singersThe top award at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for best pharmaceutical advertising campaign went to Philips, the company that’s placing a big corporate bet on digital health.  The campaign was called Breathless Choir, and it left me, well, breathless (in a good way). Watch it now.

This is how health/care advertising should be done. This inspires health and patient engagement, social connections, and sound self-care principles. Evidence shows that singing in the right way can bolster lung capacity — just what these patients, all dealing with some sort of respiratory condition, must do to enhance their quality of life and their lives overall.

Philips Breathless choir Gareth Malong quoteSome folks have COPD, others have a collapsed lung; one woman is managing cystic fibrosis, and some are on oxygen full-time.

All joined in song at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NYC, to sing, appropriately, Every Breath You Take by Sting.

What’s the ad promoting? Better health and quality of life. The business aspect Philips is promoting is its medical device, SimplyGo Mini, which is a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) that gives patients a smaller, lightweight device that enables mobility for people who want to live active lives. You see one of these devices being placed on the chorus riser during the group’s concert. But the device isn’t at all the focus of the ad.

The experience and benefits of it are.

The metrics for the ad were as follows: the campaign launched on World COPD Day and attracted over 15 million views across platforms.

Read detailed coverage on the chorus and choir director Gareth Malone in The Telegraph here.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Many millions of dollars are spent on DTC health care advertising by pharma, life science, and medical device companies every year in the US market where direct-to-consumer ads are permitted (legal in only two countries on Earth: the U.S. and New Zealand). Too little of this spending motivates real health and patient engagement, teaches sound and sticky self-care principles, brings patient peers together for social health, and inspires patients to share in health decision making with their clinicians.

Philips achieves these impacts, and others, with the Breathless Choir project.

Kudos to the Cannes Lions Festival jury for recognizing this ad program. Philips and Ogilvy & Mather’s efforts prove that health industry PR and advertising in the direct-to-consumer mode can educate, engage, inspire — even entertain and emotionally move — patients and the larger public.