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2017 Annual Report: Healthcare Communications Agencies Overview – Ahead Into A Cloudy Future

Written by: | chris.truelove@medadnews.com | Dated: Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

 

For pharma advertising agencies, Trump’s election capped off a year of growth, but even though uncertainty abounds, there is optimism.

 

For many of the healthcare advertising agencies featured within this magazine, 2016 was another year of growth and change. With the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote to exit the European Union, the year also introduced uncertainty to agencies and their clients.

JUICE Pharma Worldwide’s Robert Palmer, executive VP, reported on the Coalition of Healthcare Communication’s Washington summit in November 2016. At the summit, member agencies speculated on what Trump’s election would mean to them and their pharma industry clients. As of February this year, he said, “the crystal ball is still pretty cloudy.”

According to Palmer, “John Kamp, the CHC’s executive director, put it succinctly in late January when I asked him for a post-inauguration comment: ‘We certainly have our hands full with the new Trump administration,’ he said. ‘Taxes on marketing; drug approvals slowdown; off-label communication policy changes. We’re living in interesting, sometimes turbulent, times.’”

As reported by several news outlets, at the end of January, Trump met with six pharmaceutical company CEOs and representatives of the Pharmaceutical Researcher and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) where he discussed ways to lower drug prices and streamline the FDA to make approvals easier. He also called for more medical products to be made inside of the United States. PhRMA CEO Steven Ubi released a positive statement on the discussion after the meeting, saying “We believe the POTUS agenda on taxes, trade & regulations could create 350,000 American jobs over 10 years due to biopharma industry growth.”

Since then, Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan tried to pass a healthcare reform bill, which had to be pulled from the floor because of a lack of votes.

Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg and other news outlets, PhRMA is spending more on television advertising than any other special interest group, in part to rebuild the industry’s reputation and also to counter Trump’s claim that it is “getting away with murder” on pricing.

According to Kantar Media’s CMAG, PhRMA had spent $8.6 million on TV and cable ads in 2017 as of March.

Because of all of this uncertainty, healthcare advertising agencies believe that this is the time to help their clients get their messages about clinical effectiveness and health economics out – to legislators, patients, physicians, and insurers.

As Sharon Callahan, CEO at TBWA\WorldHealth and CHC board chair said at the November meeting, “I don’t think there are any easy answers here. We clearly need a narrative that’s easy to understand and we have an opportunity to create that.”

 

Continuing performance

Even as everyone is unsure about the future, when it comes to the past, many agencies reported growth in 2016, some with record numbers.

According to leaders at McCann Echo, the 2017 Category 2 Agency of the Year, starting with new partnerships, and continuing with long-standing relationships, the results were “a nearly pitch-perfect” year of new business wins, with the majority of its work stemming from global accounts.

Executives say McCann Echo overall won nearly 100 percent of its pitches throughout 2016, including wins within the AstraZeneca respiratory franchise, GSK Consumer Health, and Admedus US Medical Technologies. “We’ve really diversified our experience over the past year,” says Danielle White, executive VP, group account director. “It goes to show that the people at our agency are passionate about learning new categories and that we can provide thought-provoking insights and compelling creative within any area of the healthcare industry.”

At Dudnyk, 2016 was arguably the most successful year for the agency to date, with greater than 30 percent growth in income and the highest total annual revenue posted in agency history. Executives say with unprecedented expansions to its client roster, talent pool and physical space, the organization hit a stride it had never experienced before – yet the most important point of achievement this past year was not in financial growth, but in the agency’s ability to fully articulate its true purpose and vision for the future. This is aptly reflected in its new campaign.

“We are incredibly proud to unveil the newly evolved branding for our agency that brings to life the direction in which we are heading and the why behind what we do,” says Dudnyk President Christopher Tobias, PhD. “Our belief is that the success of healthcare brands, specifically those with a rare or specialty focus, relies on an equal appreciation of both healthcare professional and patient audiences – and the bringing together of the two through empathy, understanding, and shared responsibility. We call it the ‘Unifying Effect,’ and it is at the core of everything we believe and do.”

For 2016 Agency of the Year Category 1 winner Intouch Solutions, new business activity remained healthy, and wins included agency-of-record designations from Bausch + Lomb and Teva, among others. “We continue to see a blurring of lines between AOR, digital and consultancy services. Today we successfully serve that entire spectrum,” says CEO Faruk Capan. Intouch additionally was hired to support new client Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals’ product-support program. Other new assignments included work for Alnylam, Novartis, Merck Animal Health, Chiesi, and JDRF. Intouch Solutions executives say areas of growth in services included multichannel and digital transformation consulting, market access, data science, and inbound marketing.

DiD, a health and wellness agency located in the Philadelphia suburbs, has growth that has been fueled by client loyalty and word of mouth, according to its leaders. “With an advertising budget of exactly $0, the company has nevertheless managed 35 percent growth during the past 18 months,” executives say. “That includes 18+ product launches in all four industry segments.”

Management at AbelsonTaylor, a finalist for 2017 Category 1 Agency of the Year, says 2016 was a successful year by any measure. Even though 2015’s growth of more than 16 percent was hard to match, much of 2016 was spent hiring the staff needed to service new clients and new brands. Although the Chicago-based agency turned down most 2016 pitch opportunities, the business still grew by about 5 percent, according to execs. That growth came from both new and existing clients, and would have been higher had product and project approvals not been pushed into 2017.

Even though the agency said no to most pitch opportunities, AbelsonTaylor landed 16 new brands during the year. “As seems to always be the case at AT, most of the new business, 12 brands to be exact, came without a pitch,” executives say.

For Category I Agency of the Year winner Area 23, 2016 was supposed to be a more laid back year, after a banner 2015 that saw the agency tack on 35 percent growth, rocket past the $50 million mark, add 65 employees, and rake in more creative awards than any other healthcare agency in the world.“Well, the gods of advertising had other plans, and after another explosive year, the agency has broken all of its own growth records once again, expanding another 55 percent in size, and finishing the year with 325 employees and more creative recognition than in any prior year,” executives say.

2016 was a big year for product launches at Area 23, management says, with three important oncology launches in the first half of the year alone. Merrimack’s Onivyde represented the first advance for pancreatic cancer in decades. Lilly’s Lartruvo was rushed to approval with a breakthrough designation in soft tissue sarcoma, an area of dire unmet need. Alecensa from Roche/Genentech was launched for NSCLC patients with the ALK+ mutation, bringing hope to that underserved group. In the latter half of the year, the agency led another launch, which made headlines around the world. Jardiance, a longstanding product from the BI/Lilly Diabetes Alliance, demonstrated reductions in cardiovascular (CV) death, leading to the brand’s much-anticipated launch in the CV space, and thrusting the brand onto the track of blockbuster potential.

On the new business front, the agency spent the first half of 2016 focusing on onboarding the new assignments won the prior year. During the second half of 2016, however, executives say the agency “put their pitch pants back on” and won all six out of the six pitches it participated in. New launch assignments included Gilteritinib, a heme-oncology agent from Astellas; Fostemsavir, an HIV therapy from ViiV; Ryanodex, a therapy for exertional heat stroke from Eagle; and an allergy diagnostic from Hycor based on a new technology platform. New in-line brand assignments included Onzetra Xsail, a migraine therapy from Avanir, and Beiersdorf’s Eucerin and Aquaphor.

“Winning new business is great, but the thing we’re most proud of is our organic growth because it’s a reflection of the superb work we’re doing with our existing clients,” says Rénee Mellas, managing director at Area 23. The agency experienced its biggest year of organic growth in 2016, with $4 million of growth revenue coming from existing assignments.
FCB Health added 22 new AOR assignments to its brand and client roster. Management says among the agency’s new business wins, FCB Health expanded relationships with many current clients, including adding AOR assignments from Novartis (AHF), Galderma (skin care, aesthetics; HCP and DTC), Janssen/Pharmacyclics (oncology), J&J (HIV), Sandoz (MS), and Amgen (bone health). The agency also won assignments from new clients including Valeant (psoriasis), Endo (rare diseases and men’s health), and Pfizer (atopic dermatitis; HCP, DTC, and social).

“When you are entrusted with over 20 new assignments a year, every year, for the past 10 years, that says a lot about how our clients feel about our ability to deliver every single day,” says Mike Guarino, executive VP and chief strategy officer.

For CMI/Compas, the company’s upward trajectory of growth – which has been steady in its 25-plus years but steeper in the past five – continued with the winning of several competitive RFPs and an industry-leading client retention rate, These wins allowed CMI/Compas to sustain an average annual revenue growth of more than 30 percent per year over the last four years. According to CMI/Compas leaders, this also allowed the company to build its superstar ranks, with 13 percent employee growth, including hires at every level across the organization. CMI/Compas also added offices in Parsippany, N.J., and Chapel Hill, N.C., in 2016 and opened a Chicago office at the start of 2017.

Setting the tone for a successful 2016, the company launched Drive, a web presence management offering incorporating search, social media and content strategy. Executives say by understanding the common themes HCPs, patients and caregivers are searching for, sharing and discussing, CMI/Compas can better understand the types of media and messaging that will garner a response.

 

Mergers and transformations

Two early accomplishments after the formation of Omnicom Health Group in 2016 were the creation of DDB Health and TBWA\WorldHealth.

DDB Health was formed by combining AgencyRx, Flashpoint Medica, Synergy, and European DDB Health offices into a single integrated offering. Omnicom Health Group CMO Joshua Prince also took on the role of CEO to lead the DDB Health network. According to Prince, “By building on the group’s global depth of medical and healthcare experience – and combining it with DDB’s creative heritage – DDB Health was founded to help clients use creativity as a force for good health.”

TBWA\WorldHealth, LLNS, and Corbett were also brought together to create a single agency, now known as TBWA\WorldHealth. Sharon Callahan, chief client officer of Omnicom Health Group, is also leading this agency as CEO.

Executives say TBWA\WorldHealth offers clients significantly greater scale and resources. The agency has strengthened its presence in New York, while adding full-service offices in Chicago, San Francisco, and Irvine, Calif., to complement existing TBWA\WorldHealth offices in London, Paris, Hamburg, Istanbul, and Mexico City. According to Callahan, “We will be maintaining and building the local market strengths of every office, but the true magic is that TBWA\WorldHealth offices are linked by TBWA’s culture of innovation and the proprietary creative engine, Disruption.”

Reflecting the year’s success is the expansion of TBWA\WorldHealth’s offices and the addition of more than 50 advertising and marketing professionals, representing 35 percent staff growth for 2016, executives say. And leaders maintain that the addition of TBWA\’s successful Disruption strategy (that has been integral in creating the iconic status of consumer brands such as Apple and Nissan) to healthcare brands gives the agency an edge.

“Disruption is more than a philosophy,” says Robin Shapiro, global president. “It’s a proven methodology that helps our clients break marketing conventions to create a new platform for brand growth.”

According to executives, during 2016, the entire staff was trained in Disruption, and Disruption Days were held for 80 percent of the agency’s clients, resulting in Disruption Roadmaps that present a vision for each brand. “It’s a very different way of working in healthcare marketing,” Shapiro says.

When TBWA\WorldHealth took its Disruption Live team to client TedMed’s annual conference in 2016, the team harnessed the power of each talk at the conference by providing tools for healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs to express their game-changing ideas, agency leaders say.

“The results were shared not only with conference attendees but also on social media,” executives say. “The effort captured the attention of major media, more than 130-plus pieces from places like the Washington Post, as well as industry influencers; generated 49,000 impressions on Twitter; and garnered more than a 3,000% increase in profile views.”
The application of Disruption and its continuing impressive results helped TBWA\WorldHealth capture the 2017 Manny Vision Award.

At DDB Health, leaders declared the creation of the agency in 2016 as “the birth of a new force in the industry.” DDB Health united AgencyRx and Flashpoint Medica, two award-winning professional U.S. Omnicom Health Group agencies, into one agency with offices in New York City and San Francisco. The U.S. offering is part of a global network that includes DDB Health Germany in Munich, DDB Health Paris, and DDB Synergy, the scientific and medical education group with offices in London and Philadelphia.

“The merger went remarkably smoothly,” says Jennie Fischette, who was brought in as president of DDB Health US. “We brought together two strong agencies with distinct cultures. Both groups came together to harness the best of both entities and form a stronger agency together. The union has been invigorating and additive to both sides, forming what I believe is an unstoppable agency.”

According to Michael Schreiber, managing partner and executive creative director, “We used the DDB brand as our guidepost. Bill Bernbach, the creative founder of DDB, said many brilliant things but the two that are our guiding principles to this day are 1) you have to be good and nice and 2) you have to stand for something. DDB Health stands for being a force for good health. Being a force means drawing our creative talent to create forces within the marketplace on behalf of our brands. We pride ourselves on our strategic department – consisting of professional strategists, PhDs, MDs, RNs, and technology specialists who drive toward actionable insights – and an incredible team of agency specialists across departments built to pull those insights through. And those specialists aren’t just smart – they are nice. We have brave clients that are remarkable innovators in their own right, making therapies that are truly life changing. With our brands as the engine for our inspiration and our DDB partnership, it’s a perfect alignment of culture and purpose.”

In the first months after the launch of DDB Health, the agency hired a significant number of new employees. It also quickly went into business development mode and landed four new assignments.

DDB Health added Boehringer Ingelheim’s Spiolto to its roster and expanded its relationship with Amgen. The agency also expanded the Clovis portfolio, becoming global AOR for Rubraca.

The agency has also partnered with consumer giant and namesake DDB. “We established Health@DDB, which takes the best of both agencies to offer fully integrated consumer and healthcare practitioner campaigns,” Schreiber says. Health@DDB has already worked together on multiple assignments.

For 2017 Category I Agency of the Year finalist CDM, 2016 represented a year of change, according to agency executives. They say after 34 years, the industry and creative powerhouse has revealed a new vision and branding that will unite all of its offices, from New York to Tokyo. This new identity taps into the driving force behind the agency’s recent creative and client successes: a passionate belief that every brand has the potential to create meaningful change in the world.

“In healthcare, we deal with the stuff of life itself,” says CDM CEO Kyle Barich. “Our brands prevent heart attacks. Treat lethal cancers. Address rare diseases. Our clients trust us to change their customers’ attitudes and behaviors, change their brand’s trajectory, and make a difference in the communities they serve. When we are at our best, we believe our work is lifechanging.”

“Lifechanging” may seem like a high bar, but executives say one does not have to look far to see that CDM is already living and breathing this vision. Agency leadership points to brands such as Biogen’s Spinraza (nusinersen), a groundbreaking therapy for spinal muscular atrophy, an inherited degenerative neuromuscular disease.

In 2016, CDM offices achieved a new level of collaboration both within the agency and Omnicom Health Group. According to agency leadership, this “blurring of the lines” between offices has yielded significant multi-office wins for an increasing number of clients such as Spark Therapeutics (CDM New York and London) and Lundbeck/Otsuka (CDM London and Princeton), who seek a single agency partner across their global, regional, and customer needs.

Recognizing the increasing desire for agency support in Asia, CDM will soon be announcing the launch of CDM Tokyo under the leadership of Adam Weiss, managing director. Weiss started his career at CDM New York before he achieved industry recognition as execution creative director of McCann Health Japan. Under the leadership of Weiss, CDM Tokyo will provide high-level strategic and creative services to global and local clients in the world’s second-largest pharma market.

2017 will also mark the launch of CDM Rare, an offering that draws on extensive experience in rare disease and offers a unique point of view and client solutions.

“With the advent of precision medicine, more of our clients are developing therapies for rare diseases,” says Co-Executive Creative Director Carolyn O’Neill of CDM New York, who is spearheading the effort. “They want to know their agency has experience engaging with rare disease communities.”

So how does the CDM offering differ from other agencies? “You hear a lot of agencies talking about the themes and commonalities,” O’Neill says. “But in our experience, there is no roadmap. No two communities or brands are truly alike.” Executives say CDM Rare offers customized approaches and offerings for every client, brand, and community. Notably, CDM

Rare is currently supporting the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) in developing its 2017 awareness campaign.

Patients & Purpose is Omnicom Health Group’s full-service, award-winning agency dedicated to patients and marketing health brands. Since the agency was founded back in 2000 as CDMiConnect, it has put patients first, but now as Patients & Purpose, the agency is focused on making patients better – better communicators with their doctors, better managers of their treatments, and better advocates for their health, executives say.

“Patients have never been more engaged and empowered. They are the most important healthcare customer,” says Deb Deaver, president and CEO. “That’s why our job has never been more critical.”

Other recently created agencies gained their stride in 2016. FCBCURE was a hive of activity in 2016 according to its managers as walls came down and a new agency structure and culture began to emerge. “After demolition was completed, more than 150 walls had been removed from the office, and a complete reconfiguration of the space began in earnest,” agency leaders say. “The new offices include modern open seating to encourage collaboration, huddle spaces for spontaneous meetings, privacy booths for quiet work or personal calls, a large open kitchen that doubles as a public meeting space for large gatherings – and of course, a ping-pong table (to let off some steam).”

“The new space is a perfect external expression of what we are building here,” says Joe Soto, one of FCBCURE’s two new co-managing directors. “It is bright, open, and a place our people are proud to come to every day. FCBCURE is a family, and we now have a home.”

Soto recently assumed the agency leadership role with his co-managing director and creative lead, Steven Hébert. “What attracted us both to make the move from Manhattan agencies was the opportunity to bring FCB Health to a new market and build a company and culture that never stops pushing the boundaries of what’s possible,” Hébert says. “Already our clients and staff are seeing the difference.”

The year 2016 was one of exciting transformation for McCann Healthcare, according to agency executives.

“In a strategic move to create a unique cross-discipline offering, a new partnership was formed between two McCann Health North American agencies – McCann Healthcare, which specializes in marketing to the professional health community, and McCann HumanCare, a consumer health and wellness agency,” executives say. Leo Tarkovsky now serves as president of McCann Healthcare and McCann HumanCare, both located in McCann Health’s Manhattan headquarters, reporting to Amar Urhekar, president of McCann Health Americas.

Tarkovsky’s first strategic move was to appoint Frank Mazzola as executive VP, executive creative director. Mazzola, who agency leaders call one of the industry’s best and brightest creative stars, “has led the agency in a creative revolution,” executives say. “At the end of the day, creativity is our product. So ideas are at the core of everything we do,” Mazzola says.

Not new, but making noise in 2016 was HealthWork. “HealthWork is a truly unique joint venture, combining the legendary consumer creativity of BBDO with the world-class healthcare expertise of CDM,” says John Osborn, CEO of BBDO New York. “We’ve been up and running for nearly seven years now, but the joint venture – and our powerful combination of talents and capabilities – still feels like a fresh new take on healthcare marketing. That’s because we believe HealthWork is utterly unlike anything else in the market today.”

The agency offers the full suite of services across consumer and HCP audiences, from strategic development to multichannel execution, from mass media campaigns to HCP sales materials, and from consumer social campaigns to KOL engagement.

As such, HealthWork is structured in a unique and collaborative way. The HealthWork leadership team consists of Osborn from BBDO, Palmer from CDM, and Henry, an employee of both agencies.

“Denise is the secret that really makes the entire collaboration work,” Osborn says. “She sits in both offices; knows each agency’s culture and strengths intimately; and inspires both CDM and BBDO to think in radically different ways.”

Adds Palmer: “Most importantly, Denise motivates each agency to bring their best to each other – every day.”

Leadership is careful to point out that combining agencies does not mean doubling up on headcount or duplicating efforts. “We believe in a ‘two agencies/one team’ model,” Henry explains. “So we source strategic planning, channel expertise, and production from BBDO, while getting medical insight, regulatory and access expertise, and patient relationship marketing from CDM. Then we unleash the creative power of both agencies, which truly collaborate to get to the best work possible.”

“The collaborative nature of HealthWork is truly special,” Palmer notes. “There’s a lot of admiration, trust, and love among the agencies. That’s come from years of working shoulder-to-shoulder and doing really great work together.”

The dual agency approach also means that the joint venture can tap into emerging expertise from both agencies, whether it’s the deep social proficiency of BBDO or the rare disease capabilities of CDM. “We’re constantly leveraging the best of each agency,” Osborn says. “This helps us continually make what we do together, better.”

For Heartbeat in 2016, executives say perhaps the greatest change of all was the transformation of its leadership. Bill Drummy stepped down as CEO after 19 years of running the agency.

“Happily, he still remains part of Heartbeat in a new role as chairman,” executives say. “Going forward, Bill will focus on developing new client relationships, counseling long-standing Heartbeat clients on business growth and innovation, and providing thought leadership for the healthcare industry as a whole.”

Heartbeat’s day-to-day operations are now in the hands of Nadine Leonard and James Talerico, Heartbeat partners and executive management teammates. Leonard is managing director, executive planning director. Talerico serves as managing director, executive creative director. The pair spearhead Heartbeat’s larger business operations while also continuing to maintain oversight of, respectively, Heartbeat’s Strategy and Creative departments.

All other Heartbeat executive management team members remain part of the company’s leadership, including Linda Bennett, a three-year Heartbeat veteran, Claudia Riegelhaupt and Lee Slovitt, both of whom celebrated their 10-year anniversaries with Heartbeat, Janelle Starr, who celebrated her 12th year, and Jennifer Campanaro, who celebrated 15 years with the agency. “Loyalty is truly a mainstay of Heartbeat’s leadership team,” executives say.

Transformation was the hallmark of 2016 for Razorfish Health. “New executive leadership, a bold new look in the marketplace and a more efficient integration of agency offerings has led to the addition of five new clients to the agency roster,” according to management. “Razorfish Health was the original digital agency, but it has evolved into a unique full-service agency and they want everyone to know it.”

 

An unexpected impact

Another effect of Trump’s election – a rise in hate speech and actions by supporters – may have been the driver of a tragedy that Intouch Solutions experienced in a personal way. In light of the tragedy, and the actions that occurred after it, the Med Ad News staff decided to do something a little different with the Manny Heart Award this year.

On Feb. 22, 2017, a white American man shot two Indian men at Austin’s Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas, who he had mistaken as Middle Eastern. The man yelled, “get out of my country” before shooting the men, killing one. A third man was shot and wounded after he came to the mens’ aid.

Tragically, the man who was killed, Srinivas Kuchibhotla 32, was the husband of an Intouch Solutions employee, Sunayana Dumala. Srinivas was an aviations systems engineer at Garmin. He was laid to rest Feb. 28 in India, where his widow remains, awaiting visas to be able to return and work in the United States.

In the days after the tragedy, Intouch CEO Faruk Capan personally visited Sunayana to offer the agency’s support and assure her that her job was safe. The agency also promoted the GoFundMe page to help support Sunayana’s medical and travel expenses. Intouch is continuing to work with immigration attorneys and government officials to secure a work visa for Sunayana to return to the United States and to her job at the agency. And the agency has also supported and promoted additional related fundraisers and causes such as MOD Pizza, Seven Days, and davidhalesylvester.com.

In March, Sunayana asked Faruk Capan to poll Intouch employees for their opinions and suggestions on how to work at a grassroots level to “remove the wrong notion” that immigrants take away jobs, which leads “to hate crime incidents.” Going forward, agency leadership intends to challenge this myth, to promote cultural sensitivity and acceptance, and to do whatever is necessary to fight hate and the tragedies it causes.

Intouch itself is made up of a diverse culture of different religions, races, backgrounds, and ethnicities. The agency’s CEO is an immigrant from Istanbul, Turkey, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

The Intouch team condemns the Olathe shooting and all hate crimes. They believe hate is bred from misunderstanding. They believe cross-cultural sensitivity, awareness and acceptance can be purposefully fostered. They believe positivity drives away negativity, and that there is more good than bad in the world. They believe that all of us have the power to make a long-term difference.

 

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