The Top 50: The Hal Lewis Group

Though Hal Lewis Group president David Winigrad declines to report numbers, he says it was a good year. The agency received 12 creative awards and won business from four new clients. The only loss came when Bristol-Myers Squibb consolidated its Sustiva brand with another agency.

Baxter Healthcare’s Global Infusion Systems named The Hal Lewis Group the agency of record to launch three new devices and handle divisional naming systems. The agency also won Neuronetics’ device depression treatment NeuroStar TMS Therapy; a flu vaccine for CSL Biotherapies; and Cytogen Corporation’s ProstaScint (imaging agent for prostate cancer).
Staff size remained stable, though there was some turnover and hiring.

On the operations side, hiring continues to be the biggest challenge, while increasing regulatory pressure is the biggest client-side challenge.

“We’re working very hard, both as an agency as well as in my efforts as chairman of the Philly American Association of Advertising Agencies, to attract talent to Philly,” Winigrad says. “We’re optimistic. As Philly has gained momentum as a leading city, it’s easier to attract young professionals, as well as people looking to find better work/life balance.”

Winigrad says the impact of the regulatory environment is twofold.

“It’s the time required to work through regulatory process and the challenges with [regard to] what actually can be promoted…some of the latitude we enjoyed in years past is quite limited now,” he says.

Winigrad is excited about the digital trend.

“It’s not only good for clients but good for the agency,” he explains. “We see opportunities to reach target audiences in new ways. And we’re excited that they will often spend more time with an online promotion than they would with a rep. There may be some advantages there.”

The trend of more sales representatives using tablet PCs with physicians also provides what Winigrad sees as “an opportunity to bring our promotion to life and use rich media to make a more compelling presentation and create a greater degree of interactivity.”

“We’re very much media neutral here,” he says. “The value we bring first and foremost is core branding, messaging, and positioning. How it’s ultimately disseminated to various customers depends on…how they like to get information and what they’re most receptive to.”

Winigrad sees the industry’s reputation and perception as pharma’s biggest challenges.

“There’s a gap between the reality of the good works of pharma and how they are perceived and portrayed in the media,” he explains. “The communications industry could play a constructive role in bridging that gap, because we’re talking to patients and doctors all the time.”

“I’ve always felt you have hundreds of thousands of pharma industry employees, and each can be an ambassador to talk about the value of the pharma industry and the unbelievably and disproportionately large benefit it brings to society…[we can] shift the argument away from the price of things and focus more on access issues. If people get medicines they need, the price issue becomes less of a red herring,” Winigrad explains.

The Hal Lewis Group will continue to cultivate new business wins and to integrate digital marketing into all aspects of its work.

“We’ll focus on growing greatness for our clients,” Winigrad says. “That’s our mantra. We’re very optimistic about the future. I don’t see anything at the most fundamental level that makes me question the foundations of either the communications industry or the pharma industry. It’s only a matter of how well we adapt to new technologies and a new regulatory environment.”
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