When MM&M checked in with Pacific Communications a year ago, its parent company, Allergan, had just been acquired by Actavis, which soon after reverted back to the Allergan name. What effect did this change of ownership have on the agency?
“It really has been business as usual,” says president Craig Sullivan. Although, in truth, it has spurred more business than usual. The business model and tagline of the parent entity is “Growth Pharma,” which it pursues aggressively through both R&D and M&A activity, and Pacific has certainly benefited from this approach. “We are often turned to for that growth portfolio, so that's been really good for us,” Sullivan notes.
In the past year, Pacific won business from Kythera, which makes double-chin treatment Kybella; Northwood Medical Innovation, whose ear-pinning procedure Earfold was recently approved in Europe; Oculeve, which is developing novel treatments for dry-eye disease; and AqueSys, which is developing ocular implants for glaucoma. Allergan acquired all four organizations in 2015.
“We are a wholly owned subsidiary, but we act as a freestanding agency,” Sullivan explains. “We have to stay competitive and that's a really important position for us. Allergan can use any agency, but we want to provide the kind of value so that they want to use us.”
Pacific doesn't always win, either, and Sullivan thinks that's healthy for both parent company and agency child. “That's really the right balance of client–agency partnership. We thrive on that competitive nature of our model. That's what makes it work.” That said, Allergan brands dominate the client roster, including big guns like Restasis (chronic dry eye), Combigan (intraocular pressure), and Botox (numerous cosmetic and therapeutic indications).
Pacific posted growth of around 5% in 2015, which drove revenue to just short of $70 million, and Sullivan says the agency has experienced a growth spurt in the first months of 2016.
Pacific is also starting to build momentum on the East Coast. Its new satellite office has already accounted for three Allergan wins: Fetzima, an SNRI for major depressive disorder; Bystolic, a beta-blocker for hypertension; and the digital launch of Vraylar, for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Sullivan is particularly proud of the latter addition. “It's proof of concept that our model works on the East Coast, that we can compete from a digital perspective and that we can track and drive a successful launch,” he adds.
Sullivan feels that many agencies are struggling to integrate digital the right way. He differentiates Pacific's approach by noting its focus on content and strategy. “Content is king, with design and experience leading the way of the integration,” he says, adding that the firm has also developed insight and analytics capabilities to underpin this approach.