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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Area 23 2014

Written by: | | Dated: Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

622 3rd Avenue, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10017
Telephone: 917-265-2623
Facsimile: 917-265-2610





Quick Facts

Account wins 4
Account losses 1
Active business clients 11
Brands by 2013 sales  
Brand-product accounts held 29
$50 million – $100 million 3
$100 million – $500 million 7
$500 million to $1 billion 3
$1 billion or more 2
Services Mix  
Digital 60%
Advertising 40%

Client Roster

Becton Dickinson
Biogen Idec
Daiichi Sankyo

Executives say 13 was a lucky number at Area 23, as 2013 marked its fifth straight year of double-digit growth. The agency forged new relationships with BoehringerIngelheim, Lilly, Insmed, and Roche/Genentech while building business with long-standing clients. And of course, with new growth comes new faces. Area 23 welcomed 55 new employees into the family last year, with key senior hires to bolster its growing infrastructure.

The year’s accomplishments

Looking out at 2013, management set its sights on building the agency’s oncology and DTC portfolio, and executives say Area 23 achieved both of those goals in short order. GlaxoSmithKline hired the Area 23 team to handle promotion for its MAGE-A3 targeted immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma, and the agency won a hotly contested pitch for Roche/Genentech’s onartuzumab, a targeted therapy for non-small cell lung cancer.

Recognizing the value of the agency’s global network, BoehringerIngelheim and Lilly hired Area 23 for the global launch of their new long-acting insulin product slated to go up against market leader Lantus from Sanofi. This assignment has since grown to include the U.S. and DTC launches as well.

The agency struck a new relationship with Insmed, a biopharma company specializing in orphan diseases. Area 23 is partnering on the healthcare professional and DTC launches for an inhaled antibiotic with future indications in cystic fibrosis and nontuberculous mycobacterial infections.

“We started the year strong, and finished even stronger,” remarked Tim Hawkey, managing director and executive creative director. “We would have been happy with double-digit growth for the year, but we were fortunate enough to pass that milestone inside of the first quarter.”

Structure And Services

Because the two prior years had seen such dramatic expansion for Area 23, including a full 100 percent growth in 2011, executives say a major goal for 2013 was making sure the business model and staffing structure were built to meet the needs of a mid-to-large-sized agency. “It would be very easy to sit back and take an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality here,” Hawkey says. “After all, business is remarkably strong. But what works for a small agency may not work for a larger one. So we’ve really had to look at what is scalable and what needs to be tweaked.”

To this end, the agency made investments in key areas to build and strengthen its capabilities, including staff additions in digital project management, development, and multichannel strategy. In addition, the agency brought in more data and analytics specialists. “The shotgun approach to marketing doesn’t fly anymore,” Hawkey says. “Clients are demanding more and more from every marketing dollar, so it really falls on us to be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of each tactic. Our analytics department is able to not only make sense of the reams of data our clients collect, but make actionable recommendations to drive better results.”

The agency also augmented its senior team by bringing on Robb DeFilippis as senior VP, director of integrated operations. He is charged with ensuring operational excellence across the organization. According to DeFilippis, “I was attracted to Area 23 because they are one of the few agencies out there who are doing multichannel the right way. It’s not about digital or traditional teams working in silos anymore, it’s about streamlining a process that works regardless of which channel you’re working in.”

Future Plans

In December 2013, Area 23 launched the “Year of What If…”, a yearlong initiative designed to boost the number and quality of breakthrough ideas coming out of the agency. “Today’s agency model is not conducive to true innovation,” Hawkey says. “Teams run at full steam delivering against what the client is already asking for. So where do teams find the time to innovate, to bring clients the big ideas that they are not necessarily asking for?”

According to agency leaders, the new “What If” model aims to tackle this age-old problem with a few basic principles. The first is time allocation. Every employee has official time carved out of the year that will be dedicated to blue-sky thinking. The second is called “permission to fail.” Everyone is encouraged to take risks and present their clients ideas that are well outside of their comfort zone, even if it means having to go back to the drawing board. The third is incentives. The teams with the best ideas will be rewarded at the end of the year. “Every agency talks about innovation, but we’re making ourselves accountable for it,” Hawkey says. “It’s only been two months since we’ve started this initiative and we’re already starting to see some big, scary, remarkable ideas coming from our teams.”


Area 23 initiated a pro bono working relationship with NORD, the National Organization for Rare Diseases, to assist with Rare Disease Day, the organization’s annual event promoting advocacy and action for orphan diseases. According to Hawkey, “There is a terrible irony when you consider that there are up to 30 million people living with a rare disease, yet individually each of these 7,000 diseases is far too rare to attract public awareness or proper research funding. That’s where NORD comes in, and it’s why we’re so proud to be working with them.”

As always, Area 23 continues to participate in the NY Blood Drive, and in 2013 the agency hosted two very successful drives on site at the agency.

Additionally, the agency had a lot of success with the Movember Challenge. Executives say more than 20 willing souls put their egos – and their razors – aside for the entire month of November, growing some of the gnarliest and most pathetic mustaches this side of Madison Avenue. In the end, they raised great awareness for prostate and testicular cancer. And as luck would have it, they exceeded their $5,000 fund-raising goal.

“So while many people may dread the number 13, Area 23 looks back at 2013 as one of their luckiest,” executives say. “And 2014 is already off to a tremendous start, with prelaunch buzz building around several potential blockbusters, and as always, exciting new business opportunities.”

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