Credit for last year's revenue jump at the CementBloc (up 24% to $42.2 million) is in large part due to the firm's management team, says managing partner Susan Miller Viray.
“Our business has been more dynamic than it's ever been, and we feel that's only going to accelerate,” Viray says. “We're on the small side of big so we have the flexibility to adapt quickly. We don't have any weak links. The chemistry and synergy between and among the management team is impressive.”
Headcount was up 10% to 173 ending 2011. Leadership was reorganized and consolidated across client partners, creative leaders and converged strategy. On the client side, Kim Johnson was promoted to partner and Art Chavez rejoined as partner. Creative and medical strategy expertise were bolstered with more than 10 senior-level hires, including Carla Hundt, M.D., SVP, medical director; SVP creative directors Steven Hebert and Lou Massaia; and Juan Gallardo, SVP, digital creative director.
“We've faced the shift to digital and integrated solutions head on,” says managing partner Jennifer Matthews. “We've been ahead of that pack and gotten great talent. We're shifting our model weekly and daily even to account for the rapid change the industry is undergoing.”
The agency got a lot recognition last year, including 19 creative awards (many for interactive work), and digital and interactive leaders have been busy on the speaking circuit. An online forum and quarterly print publication called ConvergentTimes launched and is also driving thought leadership.
The only client loss was Novartis's Extavia/Gilenya (MS) due to consolidation, but the agency won US professional AOR status on Novartis Vaccines' Menveo. Novartis Oncology this year awarded US consumer AOR status for a new indication of Afinitor.
All told, 11 accounts were landed last year, including global professional AOR for GlaxoSmithKline's Votrient (renal cell carcinoma); digital and strategy work for a Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness b-to-b website; global strategy work on Astellas' Isavuconazole (antifungal); US professional AOR on Intercell's Ixiaro (Japanese encephalitis prevention); and US consumer AOR for Kadmon's Hepatitis C treatment RibaPak.
In conjunction with its Indigenus global network, which is up to 13 agencies now, CementBloc expanded existing business with UCB (global HCP AOR for Cimzia).
Upwards of 40% to 50% of the agency's work is digital, but Viray says that there really isn't any delineation at this point. “Digital is a huge opportunity for our industry and for agencies in particular because it opens up many new avenues and business potentials for us and our clients. It's causing almost a happy mini boom in our industry right now.”
Matthews believes the agency is positioned to thrive as the industry shifts to a specialty focus. “We have a heritage in that that we can leverage now that the industry is shifting to smaller brands and more precision in terms of marketing,” she notes.
It's been a great year so far, with AOR wins from Pfizer Animal Health (digital AOR, pork franchise); BTG (professional and consumer AOR for Varisolve); and Bristol-Myers Squibb/AstraZeneca (professional US AOR for Onglyza/Kombilglyze XR).
“We want to maintain growth as rapidly as we can without disrupting the business we have,” Viray says. “We're closing in on the big, symbolic $50 million mark. I don't know if we'll hit it this year, but it's coming sometime soon.”