By Kendra Clark | Senior Reporter

June 21, 2022 | 3 min read

An initiative designed to raise health literacy among children about the risks of consuming sugar (in all its many forms), spearheaded by IPG Health Network’s Area 23, won big at Cannes yesterday.

A campaign created by Area 23 — an agency within the IPG Health Network — to educate youngsters about nutrition and the hidden dangers of sugar has snagged the Lions Health and United Nations Foundation Grand Prix for Good at Cannes. It was among the first slate of winners announced at the festival this week.

The public health campaign, ‘Lil Sugar - Master of Disguise,’ is an education-focused, multi-platform effort aimed at improving kids' ability to identify sugars in the foods they consume every day — even those that don’t appear to be sugar-dense. It was created for Hip Hop Public Health, a nonprofit organization that leverages hip hop culture, music, art and science to improve health equity.

To get the message across, the team tapped the iconic rapper Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC. McDaniels voices the animated character of Lil Sugar, a mischievous cube of sugar that can shapeshift, change his name and disguise himself to remain under the radar in all kinds of foodstuffs.

“Sneak up in your body just to get you hooked; I keep changing my name to get you to look,” raps Lil Sugar. Throughout the track, the aggressive character spells out all of the health dangers of high sugar consumption — from diabetes and brain fog to obesity. “I give you diabetes from the treats and all the sweeties; I keep you being greedy, make you think you really need me,” he raps. Viewers see Lil Sugar show up in some unexpected places, including hot dogs, cereal, granola bars and burgers.

As part of the campaign, Hip Hop Public Health also partnered with the Online Physical Education Network (OPEN) to crowdsource nutrition education ideas. Educators from around the US developed and shared unique programming plans designed for K-8 students that would be used in tandem with a suite of resources developed through the Lil Sugar campaign. The effort aimed to maximize the campaign's impact and help students better identify sugars and limit their intake of added sugars.

The campaign ran in New York state and reached an estimated three million students in 5,000 schools. And although the campaign was regional, Cannes judges see broader potential applications for the message.

Sueann Tannis, senior director of integrated communications at the United Nations Foundation and the jury president of the Health Grand Prix for Good at Cannes, argued that “we could see this going global and changing the way people choose to eat.” She noted that such a campaign might be “scaled up in any language or genre of music and be replicated across the world to raise the bar on nutrition and health literacy among kids and parents.”

The Cannes Lions Festival is back after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic. It will run through June 24.

Check out all the big winners at Cannes this year.

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