Top 100 Agencies 2015: Havas Life New York

Diversifying breeds happiness

Havas Life New York's interactive website for BlueStar Diabetes
Havas Life New York's interactive website for BlueStar Diabetes

The changes under way at Havas Life New York already seem to be paying off. Under the new leadership of co-managing directors Allison Ceraso and Michael McNamara, the agency has won a handful of new accounts that diversify its business beyond traditional pharmaceutical clients.

One of the company's biggest recent successes, however, came in its familiar pharma stomping ground. In 2014 and the early months of 2015, ­Havas Life NY was a major part of the Havas Health team launching Afrezza, the new inhaled insulin product marketed by Sanofi and MannKind. The agency continues to handle both patient and HCP sides of the business. 

While early sales of the device—which is the only inhaled insulin product on the market—have been lower than expected, some analysts say an upcoming DTC campaign will help drive interest in and sales of Afrezza. It is still, they note, projected as a blockbuster drug. Havas Life NY has a rich history in diabetes products: It launched Lantus, one of Sanofi's diabetes blockbusters. 

“It will be a great launch year for Afrezza,” predicts Ceraso, who also serves as chief creative offic­er. “The year 2015 will bring a refreshed look to the DTC work and some new and exciting things.”

Another significant win for Havas Life NY was WellDoc, the company that developed the first FDA-cleared mobile prescription therapy. It's used by diabetes patients. 

“What's so great about those two brands and relationships is that they are outside of the norm for a pharma agency,” Ceraso notes. “They're very different and they help build the core competencies of the agency, as far as what brands we service.”

During their few months in charge, Ceraso and McNamara, who leads account services and strategy, have focused on bolstering the company's senior-level muscle. Recent hires include Sai Iyer as medical strategy head, Claire Kane as strategic planning head and Chris Beland as customer experience head.

At the same time the leadership duo is devoting much of its energy to charting the agency's future course. “We know health and we know pharma, but we [can] bring a very different area of expertise,” McNamara says. “If they want a non-traditional pharma approach, we can service that.”

As for active accounts, Havas Life NY is working on traditional business (Sanofi/Regeneron's experimental atopic dermatitis drug) while attempting to diversify into new categories (the medical device sector, for one). It started working with Bayer's radiology analytics business and picked up the company's CT business along the way. And Havas Life NY continues to work alongside organizations like Walgreens, Nestlé and Biogen. 

Ceraso notes that the company is also evaluating the structure of some of the accounts it handles. “A lot of clients are moving away from the typical scope of work and fee model toward more project-oriented work,” she explains. Working this way presents its own challenges, among them requiring the agency to be more agile while still ensuring it has the right talent on hand. While Havas Life NY still identifies itself as a brand shop, McNamara points out that project work kicked off the broader account wins for Bayer and on Afrezza.

The agency's head count remains steady at about 125 employees. 

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