You don't need the greatest mass to make the biggest splash. Marc Iskowitz looks at three smaller agencies whose enthusiasm and fresh thinking have sent them flying onto the radar screen
CCA Advertising seizes new opportunities with a “fluid and nimble” approach. Concentric eventually makes every pitch a win—even if it takes years. And Jocoto revitalizes tired brands by plumbing the missing link between strategy and creative. These three represent the innovative spirit rising in the smaller agency ranks.
CCA Advertising enjoyed a year in which gross revenues grew 32% to $3.5 million and its menu of capabilities continued to expand beyond Web and corporate/disease awareness to professional and DTP promotion. CCA strategic director Joe Carofano says, “We're bringing new initiatives and services to the table and making sure we are aligning skills with these new offerings.”
The six-year-old New York agency rode its diverse wave of offerings to six wins, including professional and patient advertising for Inogen, a maker of portable oxygen concentrators, and a B-to-B campaign for Cima Labs, a drug delivery company and unit of Cephalon. The Inogen effort also involved colleagues at Chandler Chicco Public Relations.
Another new client, Immtech, asked CCA to design a professional global campaign for pafuramidine, its experimental product to treat malaria and pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a respiratory infection in patients with HIV and AIDS.
Other new accounts include professional promotion on EMD's Cyanokit cyanide antidote, scheduled for FDA filing this year; a B-to-B campaign for drug safety software outfit Relsys; and interactive DTC work on Allergan's Prevage MD wrinkle cream. The business came on the heels of some strong technical work, including a consumer campaign for Agouron's HIV therapy Viracept and a professional campaign for a set of HIV assays from Bayer Diagnostics. CCA also adeptly handled the conceptual phase of a Novo Nordisk corporate campaign. Although the client subsequently decided to manage the campaign locally from Copenhagen using in-house designers, CCA continues to direct Novo's US diabetes disease awareness campaign, bringing in PR from Chandler Chicco.
Sensing another opportunity, CCA re-purposed its design studio, Nition, to focus more on Web optimization, search engine marketing and new media. “Being an independent agency, [we] can be more fluid and nimble in responding to opportunities to help solve client problems and bring new perspectives to the table,” says Carofano.
New York-based Concentric reached a turning point last year. After two years doing mostly project work, the upstart leveraged client relationships to notch some substantial wins. After a challenging 2004, during which many clients had looked to consolidate business with the behemoth agencies, pharma companies are coming back to smaller shops, says Ken Begasse Jr., partner and director of client services. “We had to just hang in there until clients said, ‘Yeah, I'm not getting that personal, one-on-one service,'” says Begasse Jr., whose father, Ken Begasse Sr., is Concentric's managing partner and chief creative officer.
The three-year-old firm has the financials to prove it: Gross income almost tripled from $1.1 million in 2004 to $3 million in 2005, while staff shot up from 13 to 27. Three professional launches contributed. Pfizer awarded one, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) drug Cardura XL, based on work Concentric had done on Pfizer's impotence drug Caverject Impulse. “It's nice to start winning some opportunities on reputation,” says Michael Sanzen, director of creative services and partner.
The other two were simultaneous launches for Warner Chilcott brands that Concentric had landed in late 2005: topical psoriasis medication Taclonex and oral contraceptive Loestrin 24 Fe. Impressed, the client handed Concentric three more in 2006: Dovonex topical psoriasis therapy, Doryx oral antibiotic for acne and Estracept chewable, its forthcoming oral contraceptive.
The Warner Chilcott account added further proof that perseverance pays off. Concentric initially pitched the client on another product in 2003, but lost. “We've built this agency on pitches that we've lost,” says Sanzen. “You get on their radar. And when an opportunity comes up, you're not a stranger anymore.”
Another rite of passage for the firm was moving from the Empire State Building to expanded space in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. “We're starting to stand on our own two feet here,” Sanzen says.
This Bay Area agency strives to bring a unique perspective to pharma and device clients closer to the Pacific than the Atlantic. “The marketing style is very different out here,” says Colette Kuhnsman, founding principal. “What a big-pharma agency can handle on the East Coast is different from what a West-Coast device company will need.”
By catering to those needs, Jocoto has found a receptive audience. The San Ramon, CA-based shop says revenues grew 32% in 2005 and it is on pace to beat that this year. Headcount is 25, following the hiring of a senior-level client services director and a creative director this year.
Two of Jocoto's new agency-of-record accounts in 2006 came from in state. For one, San Diego-based Biosite, the firm is working on an effort aimed at hospital-based healthcare professionals for diagnostic biomarkers at the point of care. And San Ramon-based cardiac surgery device firm Estech turned to Jocoto for product-level re-branding. The firm also was named AOR for Liposonics (liposuction alternative), Avigen (CNS drug discovery) and Astra Tech (urinary catheters).
Named after its three founding partners—John, Colette and Tom—Jocoto was born five years ago when the three sought to address what they saw as a lack of creative. Clients thought “physicians would buy on specs and technology, and there was no need to develop an affinity for your product,” Kuhnsman recalls. “We felt that a consumer approach could be applied to the healthcare market.”
Jocoto also does brand architecture and revitalization. Boston Scientific company Advanced Bionics, which makes cochlear implants, tapped the agency to fire up its Precision Spinal Cord Stimulation System brand. Like implantable hearing devices, the product attaches to the spine for chronic pain relief. While Precision has been available for around 18 months, it has not resonated as well as it should with professionals, Kuhnsman says. Trouble is, heavyweight Medtronic has a neurostimulation product of its own. Medtronic “has longstanding relationships,” Kuhnsman says. “We'll have to get in the way of them. We'll make it as if the physician is doing a disservice to its patients by not providing them with the technology that this company has.” The re-launch is set for January 2007.
Brands are challenged due to a lack of coordination between strategy and creative, says Kuhnsman. “One can't work without the other.”