Cannes Lions

The Code Word


Case Film






Canesten, an OTC product with sales under pharmacist supervision available from any local pharmacy, is an effective solution for vaginal yeast infection, a common condition for women. However, women in Hong Kong don’t want to be associated with or spoken to about vaginal infections, and this is a behaviour that is deep rooted in our culture. Traditionally, it is simply obnoxious and shameful to be around conversations regarding our “private parts”. As women distanced themselves from the subject, it also meant they distanced themselves from seeking pharmacists’ help. This had bottlenecked Canesten’s business growth, Bayer’s VYI sales has not grown in 3 years [1] , and the business was on a -30% growth the same time in the previous year [2] . This was an obstacle that was almost impossible to address, especially through traditional communications.

There was one clear objective: make the unspeakable speakable. We needed to remove cultural barriers on this subject, to make women feel comfortable to ‘speak up’ to pharmacists and get their cure there instead of visiting the doctor.

The solution was to leverage the power of pop culture and turn this taboo concept into everyday vernacular. Women in Hong Kong have an excessive obsession over Korean pop and Korean drama. The emotional ups and downs in Korean dramas is the perfect vehicle for women to let loose, freely express and openly discuss their emotional vulnerabilities. If women have a way to openly discuss their emotional vulnerabilities, why can’t they do the same with their physical vulnerabilities?

So we developed a code word by twisting the word for vaginal yeast infection, ‘Yum Tou-Yim’ (???) into hunky Korean-sounding name ‘Kum Tou-Yin’ (???) to pique interest, and to turn the unspeakable words into everyday vernacular that can be openly talked about. Based on this character, we then created an online Korean-style drama series, revolving around a woman with a secret she was hiding from her friends, to help lift the taboo and get people talking – all with minimal paid support.

Within just one week, our webisodes ranked in the top 15 most-viewed YouTube videos in Hong Kong. Not only did ‘Kum Tou-Yin’ become a hot topic of conversation, it also triggered a +50% jump in online searches of the term ‘vaginal yeast infection’, boosting category awareness.

Most importantly, our campaign marked a +41% increase in enquiries at pharmacies, an astounding 65% YOY business increment2 and best sales in 5 years. We have successfully erased the embarrassment surrounding the subject and revolutionized communication of the pharmaceutical industry with one single code word.

[1] Euromonitor International, “Dermatologicals in Hong Kong, China: Table 3 NBO Company Shares of Dermatologicals (% Value) ”, Oct 2016

[2] Bayer Sales Data - July 23, 2015

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