24 June 2021

Cannes Lions 2021: Isobar, dentsu & Malaria No More shine in live session & Q&A

Increasingly, the creative industry needs to create complex solutions that move beyond creating temporary fame - to permanently changing human behaviour - but how do you create a global campaign that makes even governments or heads of state pay attention and take action? 

This was the question on the minds of the teams at dentsu, when briefed by Malaria No More back in 2018, and the story of this work was shared at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this week.

Kate Wills, Global Director of Malaria No More, introduced the enormous ambition of the campaign neatly: “It’s the oldest deadliest disease on the planet, it’s killed nearly half of all the people who have ever lived and we can prevent it we can treat it and we can get rid of it, so we need to get the job done.”

Joined by Daniël Sytsma, CDO, Isobar & Creative, dentsu and Láolú Senbanjo – artist, human rights lawyer, and activist, the trio presented the story of their work, the approach, ambition and learnings to Cannes’ global audience.  Daniel explained, “When we started this, we wanted to bring together our full creative community, we had teams from Australia, SA, Kenya, Brazil, India, London and the Netherlands all working together to crack this one. We generated over 150 ideas, and after we had collected them, we came together over two day workshop in Johannesburg with agencies across dentsu including Isobar, Carat, iProspect, and Amplifi.” 

The final idea was to create a youth movement with its own visual language that this generation can use to collaborate on a collective artwork and then to inject the artwork into the worlds of fashion, music, sports and the internet, and it was elevated through a across the world using the power of dentsu’s media agencies. 

Kate shared, “None of this would have been possible without having an extraordinary agency behind us and a truly global agency that can bring together talent from all corners of the world, talent that have experienced malaria for themselves, talent that has seen it first hand, talent from Africa but also talent that reach the other parts of the world that we wanted the campaign to get to. Having dentsu alongside us, to guide us, and to help us build, in some ways, the most ridiculously ambitious strategy was a game-changer and we really couldn’t have done it without them.”

The team also understood how the approach to this campaign, and enormous challenge, needed to be different – Daniel explained - “We wanted to create a movement which gives the people the tools to speak up and to really focus on the potential that Africa has when we get rid of this terrible disease. We wanted to say goodbye to the traditional NGO campaigns and come in with a piece of work that feels like a big global brand campaign.”

And so, the team invitedLáolúSenbanjo a NY-based Nigerian artist, lawyer and activist for both his first-hand experience and his beautiful artwork, that helped visually transform the campaign and ensure it resonated across both African and Global audiences. 

“It’s very, very important that every person from the continent feel included, myself from Nigeria, Athletes from South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, everyone and that we are the ones telling the story. This is our malaria story. We are the ones telling our story. So, we are talking about the message and we are talking about how urgent it is to take a step and take an action against this disease that has ravaged our continent.” Láolú Senbanjo

This mix of collaboration and inclusion was fundamental to creating a movement that was authentic and scalable. It ensured the work itself resonated and engendered behaviour change. Kate explained, “The moment we realised that we were creating a movement and not a one-off campaign was a game changing moment. All too often we create a campaign that gets into the news for one day, and gets onto the front page if we are lucky, and then it disappears and other news comes to the surface. This is a campaign that has had several peaks already and has so much opportunity and potential to continue growing, to continue spreading to go in all sorts of directions which makes it ultimately sustainable and makes it such a great investment and such an extraordinary game-changer for the malaria community.”

The momentum of the campaign continues to this day, with Isobar UK launching a new interactive tracker to help Commonwealth countries review progress against their commitments in the fight against malaria. See the tracker in action here.

Dentsu International’s support of Malaria No More began in 2017, born out of its commitment to the United Nations’ Common Ground collaboration. #MalariaMustDie was the first campaign launched with dentsu’s support, supported by a range of agencies both inside and outside of dentsu including Carat, iProspect, Amplifi and Isobar. The campaign reached 1 billion people globally and in April 2018, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, 53 Heads of Government committed to halve malaria in the Commonwealth by 2023. At the Malaria Summit –which happened at the time of CHOGM– governments, science and the private sector added their support pledging $4.1 billion to accelerate research and development of new tools for the malaria fight and expand access to life-saving tools.

Together with the Malaria Creative Collective, dentsu helped raise an additional USD$14 billion at the Global Fund Replenishment in October 2019. In 2019 Dentsu was appointed to lead the strategic development of a global brand, Zero Malaria, with the power to unite all malaria activity across the world. Created by Isobar, the Zero Malaria brand launched on World Malaria Day 2020.

Anna Lungley, Chief Sustainability Officer, dentsu international, shared her view on the latest campaign to come out from dentsu's three-year pro bono partnership: “Draw The Line Against Malaria’ is a stunning example of creative collaboration across dentsu’s global agency teams that we hope will inspire a generation to unite and take action to end malaria for good. We are delighted to partner with Malaria No More on this campaign”. 

The talk is available alongside over 150+ films, and 40+ hours of pure creativity on the Cannes on demand portal here.