The Top 75: ghg

Lynn O'Connor Vos, CEO of WPP agency ghg, reports double-digit growth in 2009. This year is also up after a very strong first quarter.

“It was a very good year,” Vos says. “We felt the pressure in 2008 and 2007. We [decided] to broaden and…work with an array of clients—not just pharma —dentistry, OTC, eye care, and we're about to embark on animal health in a deeper way than last year. We have diversity of business and a lot of stability.”

John Dietz, chief creative officer, says the agency also solidified its “Health Spoken Here” positioning.

“The conversation is no longer between rep and doctor—it's happening everywhere,” he explains. “It's very driven by consumers in digital media. Clients recognize the value of the integrated model.”

Vos stresses that clients really want 360-degree marketing campaigns, and she notes that media must be deployed appropriately. She says clients have realized they've been living in silos, and they appreciate that share can be built faster by using content across media. “It has to be a big enough idea to repurpose and present in multiple ways,” she adds.

The firm has been steadily gaining more global work, and Vos reports no losses last year. Key wins included a global AOR assignment for Boehringer Ingelheim's consumer digestive health; a GI assignment from Forest; and med ed work for Novartis oncology products Gleevec and Tasigna. The agency also launched Colgate-Palmolive's Sensitive Pro-Relief in Europe and won a human growth hormone product from Novo Nordisk. This year ghg picked up global branding work for AstraZeneca (multiple assignments); a consumer assignment (Europe) in cardiovascular for Boehringer Ingelheim; and Strativa Pharmaceuticals' Nascobal (nasal B12).

Vos is excited about the recent launch of two national campaigns—“Think About Your Eyes,” a national campaign lead by Essilor; and “text4baby.” She's “jazzed” about mobile health business, noting that “text4baby” is ghg's “Trojan horse into mobile health.” The digital group grew significantly last year. And sales strategy group OnCall had a strong year, pulling in double-digit growth and launching new offerings to establish effective sales force models.

Vos says talent has been attracted to the agency's holistic approach to client programs. Though WPP won't disclose overall headcount, 30 people joined the group, which includes Osprey Communications. This year Erin Byrne, formerly of Burson-Marsteller's digital practice, was hired as chief engagement officer.

“As the communications model gets redefined, so does the process of how you integrate teams and work together,” Dietz says. “We're committed to redefining the nature of what an agency team looks like. It's about bringing together combined talents and applying that to this model of integrated thinking. We've always been about the notion that brands are stories. Now we're getting to a singular brand idea…on a transmedia platform. It's old, and it's new. It's telling the same story multiple ways and always with engagement. We have great new media to play with.”
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