The Top 50: Corbett Worlwide Healthcare

Corbett Worldwide Healthcare celebrated its 45th anniversary last year, and president Elaine Eisen calls it “a great lead-in to 2007.”

She’s particularly happy about new clients Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, wins which presumably helped propel the agency into double-digit growth. Staff increased on scale with the growth, and is increasing again this year.

“In Chicago it’s a struggle to grow, other than organically,” Eisen says. “Most clients have 100 agencies outside their back door. We promise [clients they] won’t know we’re in Chicago. It will be seamless.”

Corbett had targeted both J&J and P&G. From P&G, it won osteoporosis treatment Actonel (a shared venture with Sanofi-Aventis). In a three-way agency partnership with Omnicom siblings DDB in New York and DDB Ciel and Terre in Paris, Corbett will do global work, though its primary assignment is the US medical professional campaign.

[Our] staffing philosophy [is that you should gather a] healthy blend of consumer-based people and pharma- based people,” Eisen says. “We’ve sought clients that understand consumer marketing and brand building. P&G is at the head of the list, and J&J isn’t far behind.
 Strategically, they are very important. Once we’re in, we’re very good at expanding our book of business.”

The P&G franchise is already growing, as Corbett picked up a second product this year—Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Saxagliptin (for diabetes), which it’s promoting with AstraZeneca. “It’s a big launch for us, but it also gives us entrée into AstraZeneca,” Eisen notes.

Retaining talent is a challenge. “[There is a] brain drain at clients and at agencies,” Eisen says. “We have to address it as an industry. I don’t know whether it’s continuous bad press or what. On the agency side, a lot of it has to do with millennial-generation people want[ing] things more quickly. They need to move more quickly and attain certain financial levels more quickly.”

Corbett’s internal training program Idea Pharm helps “accelerate conceptual thinking” and teaches pharma-specific marketing skills.

“From a client perspective, [we’re] about long-time relationships,” Eisen says. “We’ve had a relationship with Bristol-Myers Squibb for 45 years.…We’ll do whatever it takes to [keep clients] for life, and we’re trying to keep employees long-term also. Some young people turn over, but once you get past a threshold—about four years—you’ll probably be here 10-15 years. That’s a testament to our culture.”

Corbett emphasizes continuing education, and takes culture scores on Omnicom’s organizational survey very seriously. Corbett also has an incentive program to promote from within, and Eisen reports that at least half of hires are internal promotions.

“In general, we’ve over-invested in HR,” Eisen says.  [Group CEO] Scott [Cotherman] will cut anything before he cuts learning and development.”

Eisen thinks it’s important to “reassert what a noble enterprise” healthcare is. “Get[ting] somebody a drug that will help them is much more important than [promoting] Charmin. If you enjoy marketing, why not do it for something that can [change lives]?”

The agency is currently working on its “Flight to 50” years in business. “We’re looking forward [with] very aggressive growth goals,” Eisen says.
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