MM&M All-Stars Agency of the Year: AbelsonTaylor

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Uncommonly good creative has helped standalone agency AbelsonTaylor stand out among its peers, garner acclaim and earn loyalty from clients. It's also why MM&M has named the Chicago shop its 2007 Agency of the Year.

Now the 350-person organization, known for its professional work, is extending its unique point of view to the consumer side.

“One of the things we have always understood in terms of the way promotion works in all of these markets is, if you can't be distinctive—if you can't look unlike your competitive messages—there's the very real chance that the intended recipients…will confuse them…or ignore them,” explains Dale Taylor, agency president and CEO.

A case in point: AbelsonTaylor's work on a renowned campaign, Astellas/GlaxoSmithKline's VESIcare “Pants” effort, which took home an MM&M Gold Award for Best Individual Product Ad in Professional Press last November. As a late entrant to the incontinence category, VESIcare needed AbelsonTaylor to produce distinctive creative while focusing on efficacy, which it did.
Another effort, the Zimmer Gender Knee “Art Gallery” physician campaign that won an MM&M Gold Award, is similarly different in execution, and the agency is slated to design a TV campaign for the account, the first AbelsonTaylor is executing solely on its own.

“One of the reasons we have the recognition we do on the professional side is that our work looks different, and we intend to carry that work ethic to the consumer side,” says Jay Carter, agency SVP, director of client services.

Work hard and you get noticed, even in Chicago, far from the advertising epicenter that is Madison Avenue. The agency this past year landed 13 new brands, five of them without a pitch. Recent wins have included professional and consumer for Enbrel (psoriasis) from Amgen and Wyeth, and Takeda's late-stage pipeline compounds, which the manufacturer declined to name.
Taylor's troops count two recent big launches to their credit: Azor from Daiichi-Sankyo, a combination antihypertensive, this year and Zimmer's Gender Knee late last year.

Clients say AbelsonTaylor has been a good strategic partner. Takeda's Rozerem brand team has used AbelsonTaylor as agency of record since 2004. While Cramer-Krasselt did the DTC print and microsite as part of the Rozerem “Abe and the beaver” campaign, AbelsonTaylor designed physician promotions, emphasizing the sleep drug's “zero evidence” of abuse, dependence or withdrawal.

“They did a very good job with that execution, highlighting the safety benefits of Rozerem,” notes Andy Hull, Takeda senior VP, marketing.

On the agency's work for Takeda Pharmaceutical's diabetes drug Actos, a fixture on AbelsonTaylor's account roster since 1998, Hull says, “There has been a lot of turmoil within the diabetes market [this year] and issues with other products. I've been very impressed with how AbelsonTaylor has had such a deep understanding of the diabetes marketplace and has been very proactive in monitoring these changes.”

Last month AbelsonTaylor appointed long-time creative director Stephen Neale to the new role of SVP, executive creative director, supporting personnel efforts and giving the agency a third principal. And the organization moved into larger lakefront quarters to accommodate its burgeoning staff.

AbelsonTaylor is last of the big independent agencies. “We may wind up being the last independent agency on the face of the Earth,” quips Taylor, who obviously is not a fan of the holding company model.

Going it on their own has been a winning formula. Another highlight this year, and a point of pride for the agency: bringing TAP's Prevacid (heartburn) back into the fold after a two-year hiatus, along with successor TAK-390MR, due to launch this year or next.

“We're deep in positioning and messaging for [TAK-390MR],” says Taylor. “It will be a different brand with a different feel that's reflective of the product it is.”

Sorry, guys, Abe and the beaver are taken.

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