The Top 40: CommonHealth

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CommonHealth likes to get its agencies aligned on large-scale corporate themes. But considering the success of its last one, who can blame them?

Entering 2005, the network, part of WPP Group, united around the premise that all parts of the enterprise should work together on brands. Now 90% of clients are working with two or more of its service divisions, up from 55% the year before and 35% the year before that. Revenue from earned and new business in 2005 was close to double that of any other year's total.

“That's a huge advance for us,” says Matt Giegerich, CommonHealth president and CEO. Giegerich & Co.'s latest is a push into “real-time marketing.” Or, as Giegerich calls it, “ethnographic research with a twist.”

This refers to a set of proprietary techniques for getting at what's really happening in the marketplace. For example, a tool known as “managing the dialogue” consists of equipping exam rooms with cameras and microphones to record patient-physician conversation.

CommonHealth then runs a linguistic analysis, using insights as a basis for improving healthcare dialogue in a category and giving brands an edge.

The approach is “spreading into almost every part of our business,” Giegerich reports. “Med ed is now grounded in these studies. DTC and DTP work is changing as a result.” Most important, he says, real-time marketing is helping CommonHealth's competitiveness and win rate at a crucial time.

The network spent the first half of 2005 digging out of a hole after DTC shop Quantum lost Crestor and Levitra to rival Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Healthcare. (BBDO NY has since snared the Levitra account). More bad news came this year as one of Adient's most promising brands, AstraZeneca's anticoagulant Exanta, was terminated due to FDA concerns.

In an effort to offset its 2005 losses, Quantum picked up DTC on Duramed's Enjuvia for vasomotor symptoms, as well as Provigil and Nuvigil from Cephalon.

The agency also had a personnel void to fill after Stu Klein left in the fall to take over at Omnicom shop KPR. Dan Katz and Steve Cashkoff, who had been recruited from Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Healthcare to run the account services and creative departments, respectively, took lead roles at the firm.

Ferguson spun off Altum and shrunk to a staff of 80 last year as it sent 50 employees to the new agency.

Seven new clients came on board between 2005 and 2006, while existing clients added nine new assignments for a total of 17 products, including a franchise initiative (Merck oncology, including Veronistat and Gardasil), a hospital device client (Hospira) and a pharma service sector supplier (Dendrite). Its latest win is Orapem, an oral antibiotic being co-marketed by Forest and Replidyne. However, Ferguson lost several brands, including Claritin, when Schering-Plough switched it to OTC status, and the Topamax epilepsy business, which Ortho Neurologics moved to GSW.
Ferguson brought in Neil Paulino from Torre Lazur  as chief creative officer, Mike Endy from Interbrand Wood as associate creative director, and Henry Kirsch from Healthstar as SVP, account group supervisor.

President Michael Parisi says priority one for Altum's sophmore year is getting known outside of oncology. “Our focus is to expand to HIV and some of the more serious illnesses out there,” he says.

Business from former Ferguson clients shot up 38%, including strategic and promotional activities for Bristol-Myers Squibb and J&J's Ortho-Biotech.

Joining the roster were global assignments for AstraZeneca's Zactima (AZ6474) for thyroid and lung cancers, Berlex's Campath for leukemia, Eisai's E7389 compound being studied in breast cancer and Myriad Genetics' diagnostics test BracAnalysis for detecting certain forms of breast cancer.

Altum filled out its account-team ranks, hiring biotech exec Jerry Fishlin as executive VP, director of client services. NP and longtime oncology nurse Carolyn Grande, joined as director, professional and patient education.


With a completely new management team, revenue increased 78% between 2004 and 2005, and new business wins combined with organic growth.

Carbon's biggest challenge is managing growth, says new president Darlene Dobry, with staff having doubled in size to just over 40 employees. Dobry and longtime colleague Scott Watson, EVP and chief creative officer, were recruited from Torre Lazur McCann in June 2005 to run the account services and creative groups, respectively. A month later, Nanske Wood left for Esprit Pharma, and Dobry was offered her post.

Carbon was named agency of record for Esprit, for which it launched three new products in nine months. The latest was Estrasorb, an HRT in a topical lotion that hit pharmacy shelves in March. The agency also landed the international launch work for the ProQuad vaccine, which Merck awarded based on Carbon's US ProQuad work. And Wyeth's consumer healthcare group named it AOR on a number of brands.

Jeanne Blanchard has just joined Carbon as new EVP, client services, and has started installing digital imaging capabilities.


Noesis proved alluring enough for Merck to hand it the global professional assignment for its Januvia type 2 diabetes drug and combination product, expected to file in 2006. John Dietz joined as chief creative officer, from Cline, Davis & Mann.

“It's been a good year but a tough year,” reports Guy Dess, Adient president and managing partner.

The agency scored two professional wins in late 2005—for J&J unit PriCara's injectible antibiotics ceftobiprole and doripenem—but faced generic issues on a leading brand, AstraZeneca's Toprol-XL, which prompted the company to recduce spending on promotion of the brand.

CommonHealth's service companies, including managed care division Solara, have grown, as have CRM shop Xchange and interactive outfit Qi, Giegerich says, reflecting the shift toward DTP, disease education and interactive.

To ease intra-division collaboration, CommonHealth is consolidating into a new office park. The more fully integrated headquarters in Parsippany, NJ, will join 11 of its 13 operating companies in one multi-tenant office environment. Half are already there, after leases ended on some sites early in 2006.

“Right now, if you do a pulse check of the organization, it's a rapidly fluttering heartbeat,” says Giegerich.

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