100 quotes: What they reveal about the state of healthcare advertising

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Executives from MM&M's top 100 agencies talk about the pros and cons of being independent versus network agencies, their visions, where the money is, agency culture, advice on being in the healthcare industry, challenges, client experiences, and trends to look out for.

INDEPENDENT AGENCIES VS NETWORKS

1. 2e Creative
“Clients always ask, ‘Why should I hire you over a four-thousand-person agency?' My friendly response is, ‘Even if you hire a four-thousand-person agency, you still only get six people on your business. You can have their six people or my six people.'” 
- Ross Toohey, president

2. AbelsonTaylor
“Given our size and success, and that our senior people have been here forever, [would-be buyers] just assume we all want to cash out. Well, we don't.” 
- Dale Taylor, president and CEO

3. Benchworks
“The life-sciences industry is under pressure and compelled to look for more efficiencies. “Because we are privately held, we aren't really as concerned about quarter-to-quarter performance. We don't have legacy acquisition costs. So we provide a good value.”
- Thad Bench, CEO

4. Calcium
“Agency consolidation towards large networks continues to limit exposure to Big Pharma, but we see that trend weakening as clients seek greater innovation.”
- Steven Michaelson, CEO

5. Evoke Health
“Many pharma companies are abandoning the [consolidated holding company] arrangements altogether or are opting to add independent agencies into the mix to increase quality… We see it as a de-commoditization of the industry and a valuing of quality strategic thinking and creative.”
- Reid Connolly, CEO of Evoke Group and Evoke Health

6. Greater Than One
“‘Prosolidation' is a notion of proactively using independent shops to help your holding companies be more innovative… We're very happy to work alongside other agencies.”
- Elizabeth Izard Apelles, CEO

7. HealthWork
“We're not diluting the culture or agency or offering,” Henry says. “We are combining the best of the agencies.”
- Denise Henry, managing director

8. McCann Health North America
“We're embracing our McCann-ness. We're a large, global network. We play big; it's expected of us. The goal is to be a significant player from a scale and stature perspective.”
- Amar Urhekar, president, McCann Health Americas

9. Pivot Healthcare Communications
“Our biggest challenge is to avoid becoming a post-pharma-company-acquisition casualty. A lot of time when an acquisition happens, you're not given a chance to retain the business.”
- Cindy Schermerhorn, president and CEO

10. precisioneffect
“[Parent company] Precision Media Group has put wind beneath our sails. You go into these things cautiously, but it was a natural collaboration and it exceeded our expectations.”
- Carolyn Morgan, president

11. STRIKEFORCE Communications
“All these big agencies and holding companies keep on realigning, renaming, restructuring – and to what end? Where's the value? It's just a new coat of paint. A pig with lipstick is still a pig.”
- Mike Rutstein, founder and CEO

12. TBWA/WorldHealth
“We were doing fairly well as mid-sized agencies, but we were always faced with resource challenges. We wanted to create one large agency and make it a real global collective.”
- Sharon Callahan, CEO

Photo credit: Kristi Bradshaw/Creative Commons

WHAT OUR VISIONS LOOK LIKE

1. Area 23
“Healthy paranoia drives us.”
- Renée Mellas, co-managing partner

2. CDM New York
“Our goal is to make purposeful work that changes behaviors and perceptions. We don't do something just because that something is the latest thing to come out of CES. We do it because it makes sense.”
- Chris Palmer, executive creative director

3. CDM Princeton
“If a digital asset doesn't drive connections and conversations, then we question if it's what should be done.”
- Chuck Wagner, president

4. DevicePharm
“Three years ago, we wanted an office in Minneapolis. We established it and we're growing it.”
- Clay Wilemon, CEO

5. Digitas Health LifeBrands
“Any of the great work, anything that stands up and wins awards, is always at that wonderful place where there's a great alignment of purpose, where both client and agency play an active role in something that is better than either of us would do on our own.”
- Craig Douglass, executive creative director

6. Elevate Healthcare
“The goal is that people appreciate that what we're doing is a little different and understand why it's different,”
- Frank X. Powers, co-founder

7. FCB Health
“We know that advertising has always been synonymous with volatility. We know the roller coaster and the up-and-down. We try to remove that from the equation here.”
- Dana Maiman, CEO

8. Intouch Solutions
“We have to clean up our act, as an industry, and bring something to the table. We may not be a big pharma company with an R&D budget and we're not Google. But we're proud that, on our own dime, we might be able to come up with a big solution or two.”
- Faruk Capan, founder and CEO

9. MedThink Communications
“We were able to link the impact of our work to a lift in prescriptions, and that really gave us confidence.”
- Laura Perry, VP, managing director

10. Natrel
“Because people perceive products differently in different regions, being able to meet a global challenge is very rewarding on a business level.”
- Nicole Hyland, chief marketing officer

11. Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide
“It starts with a much more complete understanding of the whole ecosystem, and then it gets into how can we affect those attitudes, beliefs and behaviors with programmatic change, support, access, counseling and education.”
- Matt Giegerich, chairman and CEO

12. PALIO
“For more than 15 years, Palio has been launching global brands. Nothing about that has changed.”
- Kim Johnson, president

13. StoneArch
“Our philosophy is to take control of growth, to continue to do new and innovative work - whatever it may be.”
- Jessica Boden, president

Photo credit: Bill Brooks/Creative Commons

WHERE THE MONEY IS

1. ApotheCom
“Payers are as much a key audience as HCPs from an education and KOL standpoint. Using real-world evidence to address the needs of those groups is at the heart of our business strategy.”
- Elaine Ferguson, global CEO

2. Artcraft Health
“That's the great thing about Artcraft: We don't source anything out. We can do combinations of video and animation. We have motion graphic artists. Everything's here.”
- Stephanie Murrin, chief creative officer

3. Create NYC
“We have made it our job to become experts around the method of promoting savings offers.”
- Natalie McDonald, president and founding creator

4. Entrée Health
"We don't think of ourselves as a launch company but we seem to launch a lot of brands."
- Andrew Gottfried, president

5. Eveo
“Many companies still think of Eveo as simply a digital agency, so we've had to prove that we can take on and do much more than we used to.”
- Olivier Zitoun, CEO

6. Harrison and Star
“Every time we try to veer off, we return to specialty and its high-science focus because that's what excites us.”
- Ty Curran, chairman and CEO

7. HCB Health/Austin
“Most leaders get to a point in their career where they have difficulty getting honest feedback. They need someone who they're not working with to give them good, productive, actionable input.”
- Nancy Beesley, partner and CMO

8. Lanmark360
“This campaign [for Sirona] required universal appeal – thus the focus on integration, experience and design. Those are the three characteristics that are embraced and appreciated by clinicians worldwide.”
- Howard Klein, president

9. Maricich Health
“We're one of the few independent agencies in the country that has real experience across the healthcare ecosystem - hospitals and health systems, health plans and payers, and medical groups… Those are the companies that are forming ACOs.”
- David Maricich, president

10. MicroMass Communications
“It's taken us 22 years to get to where we are, to be able to say that we are THE experts at behavioral science. You can't just dabble in it.”
- Alyson Connor, president

11. RevHealth
“Clients need partners with clinical backgrounds who understand marketing communications… We're significantly growing in a shrinking marketplace because we're differentiated in that clinical way.”
- Bruce Epstein, managing partner

12. Trio
“The reality is that Trio was always known more for med-ed work.”
Brian Raineri, EVP, program management, med affairs and education

Photo credit: clement127/Creative Commons

AGENCY CULTURE

1. Avant Healthcare
“You learn a lot when you grow. Nobody's saying it's a bad headache to have, but it's still a headache.”
- Deborah Wood, CEO and owner

2. Beacon Healthcare Communications
“Our structure is an evolving one, as it should be for any agency that wants to remain relevant.”
- Larry Lannino, general manager

3. Biolumina Group
“We've adapted this idea of ‘happy conflict,' which is a belief that the best ideas and best work come from healthy, intellectual, productive debate.”
- Kirsten Kantak, president

4. The Bloc
“The new place is so full of light and energy. It didn't hurt that President Obama came to town that first day – the heliport is right outside our windows.”
- Jennifer Matthews, managing partner

5. Concentric Health Experience
“We're going to go over [to our new office] and take all the doors off their hinges. I want people to feel they can pop in and say hello... What that says is that we're all in it together.”
- Ken Begasse, Jr., co-founder and CEO

6. DiD
“We're a company that prides itself on a certain degree of intimacy and organizational connection.”
- Rick Sannem, founding partner

7. Flashpoint Medica
“The revenue growth is nice, but the joy is in the camaraderie and working together as a team.”
- Charlene Prounis, CEO and managing partner

8. Guidemark Health
“We came in with a new model and the market responded to it.”
- Matt Brown, CEO

9. Havas Life Metro
“We've been asked more and more to have a seat at the table earlier during product and brand development. It's critical we have people that get it and are focused on it.”
- Cris Morton, managing director

10. Heartbeat Ideas and Heartbeat West
“We're not one of those places where poor performance can hide,” he says. “We will continue to be entrepreneurial and fast-moving and not bureaucratic.”
- Bill Drummy, founder and CEO

11. McCann HumanCare
“We've been in existence since 2003, but we are experiencing a renaissance.”
- Leo Tarkovsky, president

12. Sandbox
“Sandbox doesn't buy agencies; agencies buy into Sandbox. It's a huge differentiator.”
- Joe Kuchta, principal

13. Triple Threat Communications
“We get people who are tired of managing at the big agencies. They say, ‘I don't want to lead ten people. I want to lead the brand.'”
- Bob Hogan, head of consumer services

Photo credit: Jérémy Lelièvre/Creative Commons

WISE WORDS

1. Closerlook
“Marketing is very often done by intuition and last year's playbook. Marketers need to be able to look at their marketing activity while they can still do something about it.
- Dave Ormesher, CEO

2. Discovery USA
“We can't continue to think about channels as silos. We have to understand the customer journey and how to orchestrate a brand experience across that journey, across platforms, and across channels, and then apply analytics against that to measure the true impact.”
- Kristin Keller, EVP, director of strategy

3. Fingerpaint
“Sometimes this business is a bit of a roller coaster and you just need to hang on.”
- Ed Mitzen, founder

4. H4B Boston
“People who stay in this business for a while need to have a personal passion. When we're able to help patients with a rare disease get on treatment earlier? That matters. If you're not self-motivated by the business, you should go be a toll collector.”
- Steve Piotrowski, EVP and general manager

5. H4B Chelsea
“I've got a two-and-a-half hour commute. I damn well better like coming to work.”
- Christian Bauman, chief creative officer and partner

6. Havas Worldwide
“You better have a story to tell. Selling may manage the day or the week for somebody, but it's not going to manage their illness over time.”
- Rich Russo, chief creative officer, Havas Consumer Health North America

7. Relevate Health Group
“Healthcare is a local business.”
- Bill Goldberg, CEO

8. Renavatio Healthcare Communications
“With increasingly genericized categories, you have to be a lot more clever. Some categories are on autopilot, and it takes a lot to shake that loose.”
- Sheila Gerus, co-owner and managing partner

9. Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness
“It's easy to get a little apologetic sometimes, given how critical others can be of the pharma industry. We should celebrate what we get to do.”
- JD Cassidy, managing director

10. Sentrix Health
“There are very few ‘single-shingle' physicians anymore... We can't continue as if each doctor has his or her own decision-making process.”
- June Carnegie, managing director

Photo credit: threephin/Creative Commons

CHALLENGES, CHANGES, AND PRESSURE

1. Dudnyk
“The unpredictability with [orphan drugs] is a little unsettling. Not that we're the only ones dealing with it, but it's a long road to approval.”
- Chris Tobias, president

2. IOMEDIA
“Nobody has more data than pharma, but arguably [no other industry] has done less with that data. We liken it to teenage sex: Everybody's talking about it, so everybody says, ‘Yeah, we're doing it, too. But they're not.'
- Marc Porter, managing partner

3. Juice Pharma Worldwide
“Apps are dead. People are dumping apps off their phones, they're tired of them, they're cleaning house. Now they go through texting and chat boxes to order dinner, and that's going to hit pharma. So how are we going to connect marketers with customers?”
- Forrest King, founding partner, executive creative director

4. Klick Health
“In medical school, empathy is one of the most difficult things to teach – because it's a feeling, and how exactly do you get to the heart of that?”
Lori Grant, president

5. LevLane
“You used to have the ability to convey long-form messages to make emotional connections. With fragmented media, and the ways in which people get so many messages thrown at them, making that emotional connection has become a bigger challenge.”
- Bruce Lev, chief creative officer

6. Merkle Health
“The reality is that there is a strong, strong desire in every one of these companies to deliver on this vision of personalized one-to-one marketing, but the skill sets and the organizational design to do that are not in every organization.”
- Owen McCorry, EVP and general manager

7. The Navicor Group
“Pricing pressures are building, and industry will need to find new ways to develop and market therapeutics in ever-smaller patient populations. As part of inVentiv, Navicor can offer a robust suite of services that can really help as the industry has to find new ways to operate.”
- Dave Querry, president

8. Neon
“As consumers get more and more empowered, we need to make sure that the information they get is the most accurate. Even if doctors are determined to write prescriptions for a certain product, the impact from consumer misinformation can be so strong that they won't prescribe that drug, whether or not they believe in it. They are afraid of patient pushback.”
- Mark Arnold, EVP, managing director

Photo credit: Alex Proimos/Creative Commons

WHY WE'RE DIFFERENT (AND OTHER THINGS WE TELL OUR CLIENTS)

1. Cambridge BioMarketing
“One of the great things about working in the orphan space is that you know these patients by name. It's really meaningful, no matter what position you play at the agency. You get up every day and you feel more connected to your work. It's pretty cool.”
- Maureen Franco, CEO

2. Carling Communications
“When we're servicing our clients, it's hard for me to know when to start and stop because my foundation is the same as theirs — we want to get in deep,”
- Didi Discar, principal

3. CDMiConnect
“In our business, the challenge is always gaining support for true patient-focused marketing efforts… Working with brands that can invest in programs that are patient-specific and that matter to patients is a priority for us.”
- Deb Deaver, president

4. Centron
“The agency is the steady eddy driving the process while the other side might be distracted. That's the agency's job.”
- Marcia McLaughlin, president and CEO

5. CMI/Compas
“The idea is to surround the patient and healthcare provider with value-creating information and services. You can't have a better partner for that than the number-one agency in the world.”
- Stan Woodland, CEO and president

6. FCB CURE
“I've never met a client who didn't want more ideas.”
- Tom Millar, co-managing partner

7. Giant
“A typical AOR can very easily be switched in or out,” he continues. “By aligning our business more closely with customer engagement and the analytics side of the business, we become more part of a client's core team.”
- Steven Gold, CEO and co-founder

8. H4B Catapult
“Our focus is on doing what is in the best interest of the client or the brand, and then letting the dollars fall where they may.”
- Eric Morse, EVP and director of client services

9. Publicis Life Brands Medicus
“It's about having the right content in the right context so that customers become true brand loyalists and start to evangelize.”
- Adrian Sansone, managing director

10. PulseCX
- “We show our clients how to use their sales pieces more effectively. It may be counterintuitive thinking in this industry, but sometimes that means telling clients they need less stuff.”
Jay Bolling, CEO


WHAT'S NEXT FOR AGENCIES

1. The Access Group
“The payer space in oncology was traditionally a sacred cow that no one would touch, because no one wanted to be seen as denying coverage. Today the reimbursement space is rapidly evolving.” 
- Eric Bishea, CEO

2. AgencyRx
“We tend to get invited to a lot of oncology opportunities, and more and more of those invitations tend to be for orphan indications, for very, very specialized drugs. That's the nature of the industry right now.” 
- Michael Schreiber, president and executive creative director

3. Cadient
“Patients now expect the same type of experience they get from Amazon and other popular consumer brands. They know it's super easy to get an answer from those types of brands and it's hard to get answers from healthcare brands, which often cost a lot of money.”
- Charlie Walker, co-president and COO

4. Ghg
“Schools can be health centers. Really, they have to be, because they're being asked to keep track of vaccinations and sports injuries. That's just one example of how there's room for so many new players nowadays.”
- Lynn O'Connor Vos, CEO

5. GSW
“It reminds me of when we'd say, ‘Let's invite the digital folks to this meeting' back in the day. Now we're inviting the innovation folks.”
- Marci Piasecki, president

6. Havas Life New York
“It's easy to talk about what's out there in the world of innovation, but how do you make it relevant to the brand in a way that's going to help the brand move forward?
Michael McNamara, managing director

7. Havas Lynx
“In the case of Watson Health, we're finding nearly limitless opportunities. I can tell you that more than one client will take advantage in terms of creating really differentiated customer experiences in healthcare and pharmaceuticals. We think it is going to be a very big part of the future of our agency and of this business.”
- Larry Mickelberg, president

8. HCB Health/Chicago (formerly Topin & Associates)
“Agencies have evolved and so have consulting firms. We're getting into each other's work.”
- Kerry Hilton, CEO

9. Huntsworth Health
“As technology continues to explode, there are going to be a lot of potential opportunities that can't be quantified in terms of their real impact.”
- Neil Matheson, global CEO

10. Infuse Medical
“I see a day in the next 12 to 18 months where a rep will use VR goggles as much as a tablet or a phone. It'll just be part of what they carry, like PowerPoint on a laptop was 10 years ago.”
- Jordan Erickson, founding partner

11. inVentiv Health PR Group
“Back in the day, we lived in the PR box. But now people are looking for smart solutions, and we're having the opportunity to provide them and to step into places where we couldn't play before.”
- Jeanine O'Kane, president

12. Invivo Communications
“Augmented reality is going to be everywhere this fall. When a brand's communication strategy involves explaining complex anatomy, 3D animation and surgical simulations, this approach is very powerful.”
- Andrea Bielecki, president

13. MediMedia Managed Markets
“We spend a lot of our time helping our clients adapt to what these changes [in the marketplace] mean for health plans, providers and patients.”
- Lee Termini, president

14. Pacific Communications
“Clients are looking for innovation, for different ways of reaching their target audiences. But I think it's about finding that balance of being smart while also being relevant.”
- Craig Sullivan, president

15. Precision For Value
“It's not just the additional immuno-oncology products that are coming to market. It's the number of additional indications so many products are likely to have. There's a phrase from [Merck's] Ken Frazier that I like to borrow – he called Keytruda ‘a pipeline within a product.' That's going to be the case with many of these drugs.”
- Dan Renick, president

16. Purohit Navigation
“There are more opportunities now because we have more knowledge than we've ever had.”
- Ahnal Purohit, president/CEO

17. Razorfish Health
“One of the reasons we believe this is our year is that consumers are demanding a lot more quality in all their digital experiences. It's no longer acceptable for them to have a crappy time. They want all their interactions to be as good as the ones they have with Amazon, Apple or Target.”
- Jeff Smith, global head of technology

18. Scout Marketing
“All of our clients see the online conversations taking place about therapies and disease states they treat, and they want to get involved in those conversations. They're continually asking us to find ways to have appropriate conversations with HCPs, patients and caregivers.”
- Raffi Siyahian, principal and president of healthcare

19. Sentient Interactive
“Data creates transparency between what an agency is doing and what the brand is getting. It's not just about shiny tools, great tech or great reports. We've built enduring relationships because of it.”
- Jeff Rowher, partner

20. Sudler & Hennessey
“We've noticed a renewed sense from our more aware clients that business-as-usual is not going to cut it anymore.”
- Jed Beitler, chairman and CEO

21. W2O Group
“We all remember being in meetings discussing how social media didn't matter - and now CEOs are involved, asking about Twitter handles and Facebook likes.
- Jim Weiss, founder and CEO

22. Wunderman Health
“Companies have lots of content from their agency relationships, but what they don't have is the knowledge to make it work in digital channels. They don't have the data and they don't know how to tailor it around discrete personas. That's what we can do. We can be the machine behind the content.”
- Becky Chidester, CEO


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