Cannes Lions

Mission Possible: The Race for a Vaccine

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVEWORKS, New York / PFIZER / 2021

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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

Pfizer knew they were approaching what turned out to be a once in a century scientific breakthrough and were cautious to bring the story to the right network who could thoroughly document the journey—weaving science, culture, and the interconnected issues that come into play in such an urgent global health crisis.

Pfizer chose National Geographic because our brands share a long tradition of exploring the unknown, and they trusted Nat Geo to bring humanity to the enormity of the situation.

Together, we set out to create an inspiring documentary that would bring viewers to the front lines of vaccine development as the Pfizer teams set out to make the impossible possible and show the world that science will win, an outcome that was uncertain when filming began.

Idea

Pfizer collaborated with National Geographic to tell the story of an historic achievement to develop a Covid-19 vaccine in record time. The story unfolded while the film was in production, and before the team knew how it would end. The result is a documentary that captures an historic moment of scientific risk, discovery and innovation, and the human ingenuity needed to win.

By documenting the processes behind vaccine development, as well as the careful planning throughout the trial and distribution phases, Mission Possible demonstrates the power of science in confronting and prevailing over large-scale crises.

The film spotlights individual stories within Pfizer and the personal sacrifices that the Pfizer team made to deliver the vaccine on an accelerated timeline. As much as it is about the success of science, Mission Possible also speaks to the importance of leadership, creativity, and resilience.

Strategy

The film focuses on explanations of the underlying science and the process that drive vaccine development, highlighting the technical expertise and scientific innovation needed to overcome this and future pandemics.

Exclusive interviews with key members of Pfizer’s team -- including Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla -- as well as staff from across the organization highlight the people behind this achievement. It takes viewers from the labs to the manufacturing facilities to the first vaccination in December 2020. Personal accounts of the compound effects of pandemic stress, social isolation, and the pressure of the compressed timeline reveal the commitment and humanizing obstacles the Pfizer team had to overcome.

The documentary was released on the one-year anniversary of the WHO’s declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, emphasizing the story’s significance to the global community.

Execution

We started filming late 2020 and were able to create the documentary in a compressed 6 month production window. This allowed us to align the premiere to the one year anniversary of the WHO declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic. On March 11, 2021 the film premiered in primetime on National Geographic. It was made available the next day on VOD platforms and Pfizer's YouTube channel for global accessibility.

To drive awareness leading up to the premiere, we conducted a robust tune-in campaign across all National Geographic media platforms and ABC news broadcast media to build momentum among science and news enthusiasts before “Mission Possible” premiered.

We also created complimentary content to extend the storytelling to National Geographic’s non-linear platforms through which we were able to promote the long form documentary on demand after the premiere. These elements included a vaccine explainer video, print and digital article, and vertical story.

Outcome

Mission Possible and related content and promotion had a global reach of 100M+ across all platforms with 1MM+ documentary views, 54MM views of the promotional video, and 25MM+ social impressions to date which drew 27K reactions driving social conversation.

The film generated both brand and social impact, taking viewers inside Pfizer’s scientific breakthrough in a way that showcased the scientific and regulatory rigor. The film helps viewers understand and trust science at a time when vaccine hesitancy is a common sentiment around the world.

Independent research revealed that after watching the documentary, viewers had a more positive opinion of Pfizer (73%), the Pfizer vaccine 67%, and the pharmaceutical industry (62%). The film also drove significant lift in trust in Pfizer (66%>83%), the Pfizer vaccine (74%>82%), and the pharmaceutical industry (61%>76%). On general vaccine sentiment, the viewers had more positive and fewer negative sentiments about COVID-19 vaccines.

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