Havas Lynx | 2017
PerformanceRevenue held steady at an estimated $65 million in 2016
Plans“We have an aggressive top-line-growth agenda. You'll see us create platforms that can be taken to clients in a proactive fashion and adapted to their situations”
— Dennis Urbaniak
Prediction“Everybody is interested in working with the leaders in the biosimilar space, even though nobody is quite sure how biosimilars are going to define the broader market going forward”
— Dennis Urbaniak
Over the span of a few weeks in late February of this year, Havas Lynx lost its leader to the consulting world and replaced him with, well, a leader from the consulting world. It wasn't exactly a tit-for-tat deal — Lynx's exiting president, Larry Mickelberg, departed for Deloitte, and its incoming one, Dennis Urbaniak, arrived from Accenture — but the symmetry wasn't lost on most observers.
Including Urbaniak himself, who spent nearly two decades as a commercial and innovation leader at Sanofi before a three-year detour at Accenture, where he served as a managing director in the company's life-sciences practice. “Twenty years on the client side and three years at a premier consulting firm do not make me an agency expert,” he says. “But I've learned a lot about the service [culture] along the way. And I know if you do something like this, you do it at Havas.”
Given Urbaniak's rep as a commercial ace with a futurist bent, he should prove a perfect fit at Lynx, traditionally the most tech-minded of the Havas Health agency brands. In addition to serving as Lynx's president, he also assumes the title of chief digital officer at the newly created Havas Health & You mothership. It certainly doesn't hurt that Urbaniak knows Havas Health so well from his time as a client: During his Sanofi tenure, he worked with the agency for 12 years on diabetes and cardiovascular products. In fact, the Lynx opportunity was first broached during one of his semiannual stay-in-touch lunches with longtime Havas Health leader Donna Murphy.
Urbaniak inherits an enviable situation, even as the agency's revenue, $65 million, and staff size, 350, were flat in 2016 after a few years of double-digit growth, according to MM&M estimates. Owing to its Havas parentage, Lynx can tap big-brand consumer teams or entertainment A-listers — courtesy of corporate sibling Universal Music Group — on a moment's notice. “Holding companies can be fairly well siloed, sometimes by design,” Urbaniak explains. “It's easy to break down walls and reach across the network to find the best and most appropriate talent. There's a speed to it that you sometimes don't see in this setting. We have a small-company feel in a lot of ways, but with the backing of an enormous company from a resource perspective.”
Given Lynx's high-end clientele — it still works with Urbaniak's former Sanofi peers, along with Amgen, Regeneron, and Essilor — the agency's most daunting challenge might be to live up to the expectations its recent work at the intersection of health and technology has created. Urbaniak declines to share specifics, but points to two projects he believes will do just that. One, for a Sanofi brand, uses Amazon's Alexa “to completely change the way patients interact with the product.” Another, for a client in a chronic-disease category, will see Lynx develop a line of Bluetooth-connected therapeutic devices to help patients manage their conditions.
Though he's only been in charge for a few months, Urbaniak has no doubt that Lynx's people are up to the task. “This is such a purpose-driven organization,” he says. “For most people here, it's not a job. It's a passion. There's just so much fun, positive energy.”