Why is this work relevant for Brand Experience & Activation?
Occasionally, everyone needs medicine. Unfortunately, few are aware of the scary truth of how their medicines are produced. With the goal to create more sustainable medicines, we created a brand experience where we connected with consumers by revealing the truth. We turned water that has been polluted by Hyderabad’s pharmaceutical factories into a new type of “medicine”. It became the heart of a campaign that combined retail, social media, film, PR and print. It connected with the public's feelings and made politicians and pharmacies come together in the work for more sustainably produced medicines.
Hyderabad in India is the world’s biggest manufacturing site for medicine. More than 50% of India’s global exports of medicine are produced here, and make up the major share of medicine imported to the US, Europe, and Sweden – our home market. But due to lack of environmental oversight, many factories in Hyderabad still dump their waste straight into nature. This means the medicine we take for our health in Sweden and other wealthy countries is actively making people sick and polluting the environment in parts of the world struggling with bigger inequalities. Apotek Hjärtat, Sweden’s biggest privately owned pharmacy, has been working actively with sustainability since the start in 2010. In 2019 we decided to do our part in making pharmaceuticals more sustainable, and make sure the medicine we sell doesn’t harm others, even though it meant going against our own industry.
Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)
We collected 100 liters of water near the pharmaceutical factories in Hyderabad in collaboration with Sweden’s most outstanding laboratories, RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden). We then analyzed the water and extracted the active substances, resulting in a completely new kind of medicine: Sordidum Pharmacum - a deadly cocktail extracted from pharma polluted water. The new ”medicine” was used in an integrated campaign (print, TVC, OOH, SoMe) that aimed to open the eyes of the general public in order to put pressure on politicians in Sweden and the EU. We sent the pills to politicians together with a medication package insert that states what we found in the water, what the effects are, and what we wanted to be done; adding sustainability as a criteria in the procurement of pharmaceuticals on a nationwide level.
Describe the strategy (20% of vote)
The heart of the strategy was to package an abstract problem as a physical product, in order to demonstrate the danger posed by pharmaceutical pollution to both people and the environment. The strategic aim was to make the general public more aware of the problem of pharmaceutical pollution, in order to put pressure on politicians and key decision makers. By letting people come face to face with the fact that the medicine we eat for our health might be poisoning people on the other side of the world, we could generate the necessary outrage and engagement to create real change. The traditional approach to procuring medicines has always been about lowering costs, to benefit patients and healthcare facilities, with no thought towards sustainability. And our only hope of changing that was to show that low costs come with a high price.
Describe the execution (30% of vote)
The water was collected from the vicinity of pharmaceutical factories in the summer of 2019. RISE then performed examinations and extractions during August and September. The result was 60 grams of extracted substances that were turned into Sordidum Pharmacum pills. The pills were shown at our pharmacies, sent to politicians and used in all our activities. On our website, we informed the public on the issues and the result of not having a sustainability criteria in the procurement of pharmaceuticals. They could also download the official lab report from RISE and find out how they could influence the politicians to act. We spread the initiative via long and short films, various print ads aimed at politicians and the public in Sweden’s largest newspapers and through traditional PR. In addition, we invited all of our competitors to join in launching a sustainability label based on our precursor “Follow Your Heart”.
List the results (30% of vote)
The campaign received heavy coverage in Swedish news, was seen by 1/3 of the population, drove 1 in 10 Swedes to visit the campaign site and generated 10 000 downloads of the report. Back in India, it was covered by the world’s second largest English newspaper - The Times of India. But more importantly, it changed things. The campaign led to all major Swedish pharmacies launching a shared label for sustainable pharmaceuticals, based on Apotek Hjärtats original label. Two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have contacted Apotek Hjärtat to see what they need to change to receive the label. A new law will soon be passed in the Swedish parliament demanding stricter environmental criteria when procuring pharmaceuticals. By turning pollution into a pill we made the problem real enough for people to react and politicians to act, and revealed the problems hidden under the surface of the pharmaceutical world.