The Top 40: Dudnyk

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If only seven words were to be written about Dudnyk, EVP and creative director Barry Schmader would be happy with these seven: smart, creative, flexible, plays well with others. Creativity is clearly one of Dudnyk's strengths.

“We focus on building bold brand solutions,” says general manager Fred Robbins. “We're turning challenges into opportunities and building enduring relationships, because we're willing to modify our approach and structure based on [clients'] needs. Things like PR and interactive are core parts of the marketing mix. Being a company that can bring these core parts to the table gives us an advantage.”

Ed Dudnyk owns a number of independent companies (including PR, interactive, fulfillment, printing) that work together. Robbins says 2005 revenue was “around the same area” as 2004, but that 2006 “is ahead.” He calls 2005 “a good, challenging year.”

It was a year in which Dudnyk said goodbye to clients Gen-Probe and Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals. It was also a year of significant new products. The agency helped launch Shire's Equetro for bipolar I disorder; Zymar, a pinkeye medication that PediaMed in-licensed from Allergan for entry into the Pediatric category; and Medtronic's Endeavor, a drug-eluding stent, in Europe.

Medtronic Urology assigned Dudnyk InterStim, an overactive bladder device, and the relationship has extended to include additional bladder control devices. The firm also became agency of record (AOR) for ZLB Behring's Rhophylac (an Rh prophylaxis to prevent hemolytic diseases of newborns) and TAP Pharmaceutical Products' Lupron Depot (for prostate cancer, endometriosis, fibroids and central precocious puberty).

Project work came from Forest Laboratories for its anxiety and depression drug Lexapro, and for Advantis Pharma for Keplex, which treats bacterial infections. Dudnyk is also working on branding for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

“We don't get hung up on whether it's an AOR or project relationship,” says Schmader. “Networks have a business model that works for them. That [model] doesn't work for a lot of clients. We're about flexibility and being open to new ways of doing things. It's our challenge, but it's how we've kept growing and surviving.”

Self-promotion has helped bring in business. But while Robbins is all for new business opportunities, he is also thoughtful about what he's getting into.

Schmader refers to the pitch as a double-edged sword. “It takes a lot of resources and time,” he says. “Sometimes being the underdog, we appreciate the opportunity to show creative because it's one of our strengths. It's usually a game-changer.”

Schmader says companies of all sizes are reaching out to smaller agencies for specific help—creative, problem-solving, specialty capabilities. “Three or four years ago, big pharma [seemed] more comfortable with large networks,” he says. “I'm surprised that a big agency wouldn't be able to provide a creative concept you could use or a viable solution. It feels like the gates are opening up a little bit for us.”

“We've learned to work and play well with others,” Schmader continues. “We don't want to be a threat. If they're politically wired into an agency, we're not looking to take the whole account. We're happy to stay in our yard and help you the way you want us to.”

Robbins says the agency doesn't make a big deal about network agencies because they are not seen as main competitors. “Size does matter,” Robbins says. “The size of your commitment. At the end of the day it's about your people.”

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