33 West Monroe
Chicago, IL 60603
Sales promotion 50%
Video brochures 25%
Consumer publication 5%
Astellas Pharma US
Eli Lilly/Daiichi Sankyo
Smith & Nephew
Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America
In the view of Dale Taylor, CEO of AbelsonTaylor, it seemed for a while that the medical agency business was bifurcating into shops that worked on strategy and created major branding campaigns, and shops that implemented those campaigns in the new media. In the last couple of years, according to Taylor, more of the agency’s 24 clients are reversing that trend. “Clients are recognizing the efficiency of simplifying their agency rosters and bringing the implementation back to their content and creative development partners,” he says. Now, most of the pitches the agency mounts are for a more consolidated book of business and many of their clients have consolidated their digital implementation with AT.
According to AT executives, pitches were fast and furious for the agency throughout the year. “2014 ended like 2013, with an amazing run of new business wins,” executives say. “At the time of this writing, AbelsonTaylor has more concepting jobs under way than at any time in their history. This level of activity bodes well for a strong 2015.”
In 2014, AbelsonTaylor won 16 new brands and lost only twice in competitive pitches. Its roster expanded dramatically in oncology and grew into the aesthetics and aesthetics device market. The agency landed new brands for wound care, ophthalmology, neurology, pulmonology, cardiovascular medicine, and neonatology. Five of the brands were awarded without a pitch – in most cases from previous clients who had joined new companies and needed a partner they could count on for excellent work on time and on budget.
The agency began 2014 on a positive note by winning the Manny Awards for Best Consumer Campaign, Best Non-Branded Campaign, and Most Admired Agency. The agency was a finalist for Most Creative Agency; a win would have been number 12 in that category. AT went on to win 29 other creative awards including a prized Clio.
But AT saw challenges ahead. Big spending by Vertex on Incivek was ending as hepatologists began “warehousing” hepatitis C patients in anticipation of newer drugs from Gilead and AbbVie. A number of drugs at long-time client AbbVie had lost exclusivity and the Abbott Nutrition relationship was ending. So the agency had a sizable hole to climb out of. “You can’t always manage the timing of new business wins,” Taylor says. Most of the wins came in the last quarter, so revenue was down slightly year over year.
According to executives, every year, less of AbelsonTaylor’s work involves the printed word. The agency completed more than 700 digital projects in 2014 and now 85 percent of its 60 brands use the agency for their digital programs. In fact, digital, social and broadcast make up most of what AbelsonTaylor does for clients. “But the point is not digital, broadcast, social, or print,” Taylor says. “What makes an agency successful is not the media they use to communicate, but content they develop and the creativity with which they communicate it. Thoroughly researched messages, in-depth medical understanding, thoughtful insight discovery, carefully crafted positioning, and memorable, impactful creative concepts delivered to patients and doctors in the way they want to access information — integrated through all channels and perfectly compliant with all the rules that govern our industry. Clients are discovering that multiple agencies and digital vendors struggling to keep content aligned and compliant while also trying to poach each other’s work is a recipe for inefficiency.”
In 2013, AT partnered with Omnicom to become the lead U.S. agency for a global agency network for a client of almost 20 years standing. That partnership has helped to contribute to an even stronger relationship with this key client. AT execs say the fully integrated launch of an important new drug for weight loss with a unique “beyond the pill” patient program, DTC and digital marketing, and CRM was an important achievement for the year. Additionally, the digital strategy and CRM for a three-drug franchise and a billion-dollar PPI brand was reassigned to the team from a large digital specialty shop, and is indicative of the strength of AT’s digital capabilities, executives say.
Near year-end 2014, AT launched a new broadcast spot for an important GI brand. The agency currently has six broadcast campaigns on the air. Executives say the agency’s DTC business is growing strong in 2015. AT is preparing for the DTC launch of a blockbuster brand in the cardiovascular market. The launch will include a full range of digital, social, and broadcast tactics. AT is also preparing the DTC launch of an important drug for heart failure. Additionally, a 20-year client awarded AbelsonTaylor its DTC business, without a pitch, on an important endocrinology brand that includes a comprehensive digital campaign.
Some product and campaign launches for 2015 including brands in the oncology, anti-infective, pain management, psychiatry, neurology, and aesthetics market have kept the agency busy during the past months. New assignments for website development, CRM, and social media require the expansion of those departments.
The agency’s win of an important pulmonary brand will start to pay off in 2015 as it takes over all of the digital work that was previously at Intouch and Palio+Ignite. In 2015, AbelsonTaylor will reposition this important brand across all physician channels while optimizing patient communications and launching a new campaign based on a crucial clinical trial.
A new client, Chiesi, hired the agency on five brands, some of which had been at AT in the past and are now returning home. The brands are Pertzye and Bethkis for cystic fibrosis, Zyflo for asthma, Cardene I.V. for severe hypertension, and Curosurf for newborn respiratory distress syndrome. For these brands, the agency is working on a wide variety of digital and social programs, CRM, videos, new campaigns, and repositioning on both the patient and HCP sides of the business.
For Lumara Health, AbelsonTaylor introduced a new creative campaign for Makena for the prevention of pre-term delivery. Executives say the “V Feet” campaign has been incredibly well received by HCPs and patients. The agency also developed an unbranded educational campaign to educate women about their risk of preterm birth.
Hospital products have also been a part of the agency’s work. Late in 2014, AT launched a new triple-chamber parenteral feeding bag called Kabiven. This is the first triple-chamber bag available in the United States for total parenteral nutrition, and the first brand to launch at Fresenius Kabi US.
In 2014, a top 10 global pharma company with whom AT had never worked assigned to it four brands in the oncology and respiratory space – two on the market and two in development.
“A big surprise at the end of the year was the fast and furious development of a launch with Syneron’s UltraShape, an ultrasound device that dermatologists and plastic surgeons use to actually melt belly fat,” Taylor says. “This new opportunity, their first venture into the aesthetics device market, is a perfect fit with the agency’s Consumer Health & Wellness initiative.”
Early in the year, AT produced an important and insightful research project called Health, Lies, and Motherhood. Targeted at infant/child health and nutrition, the study was presented at an important seminar in Chicago called Marketing to Moms. According to AT, M2Moms is the only national event that singularly addresses the target of Marketing to Moms, and since its inception, has been attended by thousands of senior level marketing executives from Fortune 500 companies. Because of the emphasis on health and wellness at the 2014 conference, M2Moms approached AT about a sponsorship role. At the event, AT debuted the learnings from this new study to an audience of top marketing companies in the infant/child and nutrition space and as a result, obtained contacts at key client organizations. The presentation at M2Moms set the stage for the official launch of the Health, Lies, and Motherhood white paper which has since been downloaded by over 200 contacts throughout the marketing industry.
During the past year, AT’s account planning team has nearly doubled in size as more of its client teams view the planners as the agency’s voice of the customer. AbelsonTaylor executives are leading a workshop almost every month and have developed some new techniques to help clients distill meaningful, relevant insights from market research data. As part of the agency’s Health & Wellness initiative, executives helped conceive and conduct the research behind the Health, Lies, and Motherhood white paper.
HeartsATwork, which focuses on charitable giving and community outreach, had a very busy and productive year. There were 13 different programs or projects that AT participated in and they all laddered up to health and wellness. “It was especially nice to get our AT staff out and into the local community at Summerfest,” Taylor says. “We were able to interact with some really cool kids and make an impact for those who need it the most — and we had a lot of fun at the same time.”
Once again, the agency will be providing a major donation to Heifer International; this donation of dairy cattle will impact the lives of those in Tanzania. These cows will produce milk for families to drink and milk to sell to increase their household income.
“2015 is getting off to a strong start, with much of the new business won in the Q4 just starting to take shape,” Taylor says. “The agency remains committed to creative and strategic excellence, digital innovation, free lunch Friday, and remaining independent.”
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December 2015 Focus: Ad Agency Roundtable