The Top 75: Cline Davis & Mann

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To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Cline Davis & Mann got itself a global footprint and a new international brand.
The professional advertising powerhouse acquired agencies in Munich, Barcelona, Madrid, Istanbul and São Paolo and merged with an Omnicom sibling in London, wrapping it all up under the umbrella of CDM World Agency. The idea was to present clients with a seamless global agency experience rather than a disparate collection of outposts and affiliates.

“Our clients were looking to us to help them build truly global brands, and yet our network was comprised of a lot of different brands that were cobbled together,” says chairman and CEO Ed Wise. “We wanted to elevate what it meant to be a global agency and really become a global brand, so that no matter where you accessed us, it was like opening a door to CDM. Perhaps there would be a long hallway, but you were entering the same organization.”

Wise toured candidates for acquisition with Eric Berkeley, who joined the firm last year from DDB, where he headed the global network.

“We called it a ‘values first' acquisition,” says Wise. “We really wanted to make sure they were culturally aligned with who we wanted to be because that would be the hardest thing to change.”

To get the new shops up to speed, CDM's New York headquarters, opposite Pfizer on 42nd Street, established a medical and scientific affairs ambassador program to help them upgrade their capabilities and staff up. CDM also made sure its acquisitions were in the loop through close contact and inclusion in team-building and skill-sharing exercises like their quarterly creative circle, patching in offices abroad via web video. “They're now a part of the cultural organization,” says managing partner, chief creative officer Josh Prince.

CDM hopes to expand into China, Japan, Mexico and Canada, and to find a way, through technology, to fill in the gaps just about everywhere else.

“Our clients are thinking this way,” says Wise. “You put the strategic resources where you need them, but in terms of tactical execution, you don't always need those strategic resources to be able to deliver.”

In May, CDM launched Brand Anatomy, a brand/design shop tailored to healthcare clients and headed by former Landor Associates creative chief Chuck Routhier. Platform Advisors, the consultancy CDM launched last year, is doing well, having seen its staff swell to 25 from an initial team of three. “It's taken off,” says Wise, who estimates that consulting now makes up 5% of CDM's business overall, having landed work from Pfizer, Amgen and Novo Nordisk. Platform Advisors specializes in early commercialization for pharma brands. CDM president Carol DiSanto says the firm's ability to trade on CDM's medical advertising capability gives it an edge.

“Our consultants are healthcare focused, and there's the responsibility of seeing what they recommend all the way through, so it's not just ‘Do the deck and dump'—‘Here you go, I came up with this great plan, give me a hundred thousand dollars,' like McKinsey or Datamonitor might do.”

As CDMiConnect has evolved from digital arm to standalone CRM shop, CDM has deployed “digital mentors” throughout its business to get account teams up to speed on interactive. Paul Hagopian, formerly of CDMiConnect, was appointed to oversee the effort as SVP, senior digital strategist.

“They're really embedding in teams within the agency and helping execute multichannel programs for our clients,” says Prince, adding that CDM is helping several unnamed clients with tablet PC rollouts. “Less and less, it's going to be about specific digital technical competencies. The more people get comfortable with data analytics and the channels themselves, the easier it's going to be for anybody to do it.”

Prince's team put together a web-based tutorial, titled Digi101, to acclimate staff to digital technology. Over a thousand staff, as well as a couple clients, have completed it. And the agency has placed digital mentors with two clients twice to help them develop digital strategy.

Last year, CDM rolled up its back office functions across its business—IT, HR, finance, etc.—into one group, dubbed SSCG (CDM's “core values”: style, substance, conviction and grace). That's important, says Wise, so that “agencies can focus on their clients and not the day-to-day drudgery of running an agency,” and has helped the firm find efficiencies “because you're not re-creating IT systems several times over.”

This year, the agency is launching its SSCG Media Group. Among SSCG Media's offerings will be Channel Dx, which Prince describes as “a software tool that, with different algorithms, combines data from IMS and Nielsen's Physician Media Study” with CDM's own response data to look at where healthcare professionals are consuming media and how they're being influenced by different channels. This will allow for media planning to be tailored to a brand's category and positioning as well as specialty focus.

In an ugly year for many, pitch activity has been holding up, CDM supremos say, and the agency added about a hundred employees with account wins from Abbott (Humira), Novartis (transplant brands), Novo Nordisk (global, future insulin brands), Bayer Diabetes Care, Genomic Health, Pfizer Oncology (Axitnib) and Pfizer's Celebrex, which the shop wrested from ghg in May. CDM also landed managed markets work from Genentech on Lucentis and consulting work with Amgen, Pfizer Animal Health and Novo Nordisk.

The agency didn't lose any business over the past year, but a couple Pfizer brands it had won didn't make it, Wise said.

CDM is particularly psyched about its growing trove of portfolio assignments, including Novartis' respiratory franchise, Novo Nordisk's future insulin brands, Novartis' transplant business, Amgen's nephrology franchise and most of Pfizer's oncology portfolio. “We still have nine billion-dollar brands,” says DiSanto, “but when you look at the portfolio franchise work we have, that's what's exciting us these days. It's some bigger books of business—maybe not billion dollar brands, but that's not where the market's going.”

Pfizer remains the agency's top client, with brand assignments like Lipitor and Sutent, but CDM has diversified in recent years, and other large clients include Amgen (Aranesp and denosumab), Genentech (Lucentis), Novo Nordisk (Victoza and insulin brands) and Novartis (Xolair, respiratory and transplant brands). About half of CDM's work is in journal ads and sales aids, and another 15% or so is in digital media, with the remainder made up by med ed, consulting, managed markets and direct-to-patient.

CDM brass say they've tightened belts along with their clients. “Clients are still spending,” says DiSanto. “They're just a lot less tolerant of waste, and they want to spend it in a place where they know they'll get a solid return.”
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