Despite its benefits, success can be a double-edged sword. Just ask the folks at Draftfcb Healthcare. In 2010-2011, this healthcare advertising and media giant set their bar high, winning likely blockbusters Yervoy, the BMS melanoma drug, and Novartis MS pill Gilenya. Also joining the roster that year was Amgen osteoporosis biologic Prolia.
The 2011-2012 period has brought both more potentially breakthrough medicines and some big challenges. The good news: the agency grew, getting 23 new assignments in the last 12 months, hiring 123 people and managing high-profile work for products like Vivus's anti-obestiy pill Qnexa and Eli Lilly's Amyvid, an imaging dye used to help diagnose Alzheimer's disease.
Asked if these newer launches hit the prior year's level in terms of unmet need, Dana Maiman, president and CEO, insists,“It is the same level. Think about Qnexa. The market has been waiting for an anti-obesity drug. Amyvid—I mean, that is groundbreaking to think that you can actually have Alzheimer's disease diagnosed, whereas before it was only upon autopsy.”
Both launches are getting a fresh start. An FDA advisory committee voted to approve Qnexa in February, after turning down the drug in 2010, and the agency is expected to issue a decision this month. Amyvid, a radioactive dye that makes brain plaque visible on a PET scan, secured FDA approval in April after a denial last year (note: the test is not definitive on its own).
Maiman also singles out a 2012 account win from life science tools and diagnostics firm Thermo Fisher, for that firm's peanut and follow-on allergy assays, called uKnow. “For those reasons, it has been and continues to be very, very interesting,” she adds.
But then there are those challenges. As a result of a holding company consolidation, in March the agency lost the Merck diabetes franchise, which includes the world's top-selling oral anti-diabetic, Januvia. The account, along with follow-on compounds Janumet and Juvisync, went to Omnicom's Harrison & Star.
“From an agency perspective, you're so heartbroken when something like this happens,” says Rich Levy, EVP and chief creative officer. “It's hard when you launch something and you make it an almost $5-billion franchise, and then you stop working with them.”
This year brought another tough loss, Cephalon Oncology. Cephalon was bought last year by Teva, which “had a very different opinion on who should be handling their oncology business,” explains Maiman. The franchise went to AbelsonTaylor. But Teva remains a client in other areas, namely emergency contraceptive Plan B and Nuvigil for shift work disorder. In addition, one Novartis launch was delayed—Ilaris for its gouty arthritis indication—and another, the aliskiren CV franchise, unexpectedly stopped promotion.
The Interpublic Group agency picked up new business from Erbitux, becoming the US AOR for the oncology brand, as well as the accompanying biomarkers work. On a global basis, BMS also entrusted positioning work for Phase III myeloma drug elotuzumab.
An existing account with breakthrough potential seems to be moving through the pipeline, Lilly Alzheimer's agent solanezumab. For solanezumab and for Amyvid, Draftfcb Healthcare handles the integrated business, spanning DTC, HCP and managed markets. The agency has also started to work with Vivus on the recently approved ED drug Stendra. Also, biotech firm Relypsa awarded its Phase IIb candidate RLY5016 for hyperkalemia, and Iroko landed on the roster with a yet unnamed nanotechnology in the pain area.
As for organic growth, Medtronics added Kyphon spinal implants; GlaxoSmithKline delivered Tyverb, the ex-US version of Tykerb for cancer; and Lilly entrusted global digital work for depression med Cymbalta. Draftfcb Healthcare is also creating, on a pro-bono basis, advertising with a celebrity tie-in for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation.
Big launches have been visible on New York streets with the mainly outdoor “Get Your Shift Together” effort for Nuvigil featuring T-shirts with the slogan and a digital takeover of Times Square; on TV with commercials featuring “Rosie” the elephant sitting on a couch, as part of a multichannel campaign for Boehringer Ingelheim COPD drug Spiriva; on the web with FactsOnHand.com, part of branded and unbranded work for Auxilium's Xiaflex for Dupuytren's contracture; and just about everywhere else with the US DTC launch of Prolia featuring actress Blythe Danner.
That's a varied body of work. “Depth is really what has been separating us from our competition,” says Levy. We do a lot of things really well.”
Less high-profile is the agency's early positioning work on BMS pre-generic products. “Our pipeline of things that we're working on very early in the process will help us for years to come to get to deeper insights and eventually richer creative work,” says Levy.
Developing relationships so early in a product's life cycle can have an enormous payoff. “This is how our relationship with Yervoy started, probably six years ago,” recalls Maiman.
Integrated teams staffed by account, creative and digital experts make for strong integrated campaigns, says Maiman, noting Nuvigil as one such example. “I'm not saying we have it all figured out, but we're certainly pretty far along in terms of really having [our brand teams] integrated.”
On the personnel front, the agency hired Sara Bamber, chief strategy officer, formerly worldwide planning director for Coke, and made moves to strengthen its analytics offering. Staff in-services have included Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, as well as a joint mHealth program with Google.
Changes were made at both of Draftfcb Healthcare's NYC conflict shops. Mike Guarino moved from president of Area 23 to global chief strategy officer for Draftfcb's worldwide healthcare network. In his stead are Renee Mellas, formerly of Wishbone, and Draftfcb's Tim Hawkey. At NeON, Matt Lane, EVP of the conflict shop, was beamed up to IPG, replaced by Mark Arnold, who hails from AgencyRx.
Maiman and Levy say that having these two additional Manhattan agencies in their network, along with managed markets group Mosaic and med-ed group ProHealth, enables fluid movement of talent. “It really allows us to forward our thinking on proactive career management,” says Maiman.
Maiman has transitioned into a newish role of her own. After assuming management of the Draftfcb NY office in 2010, she effectively consolidated control over healthcare and consumer. Those are two very different worlds, a topic whose humor is not lost on Levy. “One minute she's talking about Spiriva's elephant, the next minute Sea World's whales,” he says, referring to the just-won Sea World and Busch Gardens accounts. “The conversations get pretty interesting.”