The Top 75: Euro RSCG Life MetaMax

With founder Doug Burcin back at the helm and a network-wide reorganization under way, Euro RSCG Life MetaMax saw a boom in new business last year and is forecasting double-digit growth for 2009. The agency saw 40% growth for 2007-2008, hiring more than 20 employees to service new accounts from cornerstone client Sanofi-Aventis as well as work from Medicis and Trancept, and expects growth to top 10% for 2009.

MetaMax closed its Princeton office as part of a reorganization that saw sibling agency Catapult consolidate network operations there, and former managing director Julie Monroid was promoted to chief strategy officer for the network. Burcin, who founded the shop in 2001 and headed it until he became a worldwide managing partner for the network in 2007, is back as president, with an executive team underneath him running day-to-day operations. “The folks here have so much business and momentum at their backs right now that they've earned the right not to be hand-held at every moment,” says Burcin.

Burcin says he spends about 80% of his time in front of clients, and about half of that with Sanofi-Aventis. “As partners, we really want to stay close to the business, to the staff, to the clients, and not be administrators. Because when you're an administrator, you lose client connectivity, and in today's market, that's the absolute worst place to be.”

MetaMax has adopted a new model for interaction with clients in which, rather than routing them through an account supervisor, they're in touch with the heads of art and copy on the account. “We've tried to really open up the relationship and streamline levels of communication,” says Burcin. “Clients pay us fees, and we feel that in exchange, they should have access and really know more of the agency talent that's assigned to their business.”

MetaMax is also broadening its skill set in line with a broader network-wide directive, placing digital and managed markets experts with each account team. Burcin says the shop, whose original concept was one of providing globally integrated multichannel marketing, has less ground to cover on that front than some of its siblings, because it was set up that way at Sanofi-Aventis' behest.

Sanofi-Aventis awarded MetaMax the business for pre-launch compounds in the diabetes and thrombosis categories. The agency landed work with Medicis, taking on assignments for Restylane and LipoSonix. And it's gearing up for the launches of Medicis' Dysport, “the better Botox,” and asenapine, Schering-Plough's schizophrenia/bipolar treatment, pending approval.

Burcin is proud of the shop's “archer” campaign for Lantus. Another standout recently was the shop's “high hopes” campaign for Tysabri.

Around 30% of MetaMax's work is in traditional professional marketing, Burcin estimates, with another 20% in digital, 20% in market development, 10% in managed markets, 10% in direct-to-patient, 5% in PR and 5% in what he terms “innovation” projects utilizing “disruptive marketing techniques.” That includes a project creating virtual environments for medical congresses incorporating e-learning, e-commerce and gaming, and another partnering a pharma firm with a big food company. 

“It used to be clients would send an RFI and say, ‘I'm looking for a professional agency,' or ‘I'm looking for a med ed company,'” says Burcin. “Now it's ‘I've got a problem. Help me solve it.'”
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