Sentrix Health Communications managing director June Carnegie begins our conversation with a burst of the energy and enthusiasm for which her company is renowned. “We got tossed a pitch on Monday night and I need to be in Tokyo for it this Sunday,” she says. “I just spent 20 minutes getting up to speed on Japanese business etiquette. Apparently I need a new pair of shoes with a three-inch heel and enclosed toe, in black.” After a laugh, she adds, “Don't get me wrong—this is a great problem to have. I just don't know when I'll be able to get to the shoe store.”
Sentrix enjoyed several other similarly untroubling problems over the last year, one in which it doubled in both revenue and head count (“which doesn't mean that I probably wasn't understaffed last year, of course,” Carnegie jokes). The firm pushed deeper into several therapeutic areas, notably oncology, and continued to distinguish itself as one of the few smaller firms with legitimate full-service muscle.
At the same time, affirming its full-service bona fides proved a challenge, especially as Sentrix pursued A-list clients that can more or less punch their own tickets. “Pitching has become a very different animal these days. There's always some kind of odd challenge or hitch,” Carnegie explains. “It used to be more straightforward. You'd do the market research, understand the landscape, locate the niche. Now, there's no longer a set formula.” Carnegie isn't lamenting the changes, though, as she believes they play into Sentrix's hands. “You just have to come across with bigger thinking, and that's one of our strengths.”
As part of the Sudler & Hennessey family of companies, Sentrix execs are unable to disclose client and account wins. Carnegie did reveal that Sentrix “entered the cardiovascular arena” and also “won an emergency life-saving drug.” The agency expanded its charge from Boehringer Ingelheim, adding the company's Respimat inhaler to its existing work on pulmonary disease drug Combivent. Celgene tapped Sentrix for work on its hematology portfolio, EKR Therapeutics for its acute myocardial infarction drug Retavase and Ferring Pharmaceuticals for osteoarthritis drug Euflexxa.
Carnegie, however, points to a campaign that was done on behalf of a departed client as one of which she's particularly proud. “The company wanted to be sold, so it was our job to give them a new corporate image and make them look attractive to investors,” she recalls. “What we did was assemble a team of people from other WPP agencies—PR, digital, managed markets— which worked on the image and helped develop a digital ad board that would advise the company.” The program worked too well: The company was bought—and now works with ad firms other than Sentrix.
Carnegie reveals little bitterness in her retelling of the story, even as she acknowledges that “sometimes being told you have to re-pitch the business is tough, even though you know it's a reality of the economy right now.” And she has already located a silver lining: “Some of the people who splintered off on the client side told us, ‘I'll be in touch as soon as I land.'”
Look for Sentrix to bring on more staff to fill its new Park Avenue digs in the months ahead; Carnegie is already displaying a book that was gifted to her by a friend, How to Tell If Somebody's Crazy, on her desk. “I think it intimidates people who come in,” she laughs.