Five gold rings

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When we set out to find our five All-Star teams for 2010, we were a little concerned that it might turn into an exercise for identifying the businesses and brands that…well, sucked the least in 2009. We needn't have worried.
As always, we used both objective and subjective criteria to make our choices, including but not limited to financial performance, innovation, ability to overcome challenges and reputation. Here's why, in a nutshell, we picked each of them:

Novartis, far from being a no-brainer, was still a clear winner for Company of the Year. While Big Pharma slips closer to the edge of the patent cliff, the well-diversified Swiss giant has quietly built a parachute out of strong consumer and vaccines divisions, an enviable oncology portfolio, and a pipeline robust enough to render Digger the Dermatophyte a distance memory. What's more, Novartis registered a mindboggling nine FDA approvals in the past year, including three for innovative, new treatments.

With power comes responsibility, and Novartis showed plenty of that, particularly in its quest for specialty treatments. Ilaris, approved in June for the treatment of cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome, has a US patient population of just 300. “We follow science,” says Ludwig Hantson, CEO, US Pharmaceuticals, “If we believe we can make a difference and address unmet medical need, we will do so.”

And in common with most of big pharma, a sales reorganization resulted in the culling of 550 positions but, again, Novartis was socially responsible—half of those cuts were unfilled positions and most of the rest were made through attrition.

Euro RSCG Life (p.40) is our Agency/Network of the Year for a clutch of reasons: double-digit growth (for real—we've seen the evidence), 150 new hires, numerous new AOR assignments from Cephalon, Genentech, Medtronic and Novartis, and the “unification” of four flagship units. “Clients aren't buying channels,” says worldwide managing partner Donna Murphy. “They're buying ideas to drive their brands.”

The biggest of a slew of planned new ventures is the launch this month of Euro's new US health network, Health 4 Brands (H4B), essentially a conflict shop. “We are extremely entrepreneurial,” says worldwide managing partner Doug Burcin.

AstraZeneca's Symbicort stole the honors for Marketing Team of the Year (Large Pharma) on the back of a successful face-off with entrenched rival Advair, executing tightly integrated consumer and professional campaigns across numerous channels with innovative and powerful creative.

And Shire's Vyvanse surprised us all by claiming the Small Pharma marketing team honors, thanks to continued gains in market share through a range of clever consumer and professional channels (including numerous DTP tactics and closed loop marketing, respectively)—despite it being a “mature” brand with a successor.

Last, but not least, HealthiNation, producer of original health video content and then some, scooped the Media Brand of the Year, thanks to some impressive programming projects in support of products like Chantix, NuvaRing and Plavix, not to mention stellar growth of the business. CEO Raj Amin has long been touting the promise of his company, but when others in the industry started to join in the praise this past year, we had to take a closer look.
Congratulations to our All-Stars and I'd like to wish all readers a happier New Year.

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