The Top 40: Euro RSCG Life

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Euro RSCG Life muddled through a turbulent year, hit by bad luck and personnel issues but buoyed by a phenomenal series of launches, including that of Pfizer's Chantix, and the revival of a key account—Biogen Idec's Tysabri.

The Havas healthcare network lost revenue in 2005 as major accounts like Bextra, Tysabri and Oporia were sidelined by regulatory action and saw the departure of several top executives, but won 203 of the 278 presentations it pitched, including some Pfizer HIV business, along with European assignments on GSK, Wyeth and Bristol-Myers Squibb brands.

So far this year, the firm has pitched 43 accounts and won 35 while launching Pfizer's Lyrica, Sanofi-Aventis' Apidra, Endo's Synera and relaunching Tysabri. A major management restructure is in the works, with former Americas chief Diane Harri, LM&P president Carmine Laliberte and creative chief Chet Moss all having left the firm.

“That causes pause,” allows CEO Ron Pantello, who promises a “different way of operating our global network” rather than a few cursory appointments. “We did not want to have it be business as usual. We wanted to do something transformational and bold.”

All this has taken place against a backdrop of uncertainty for the company's French parent, which saw a palace coup by corporate raider Vincent Bollore, last seen casing Aegis. The new regime in Paris has introduced a “cultural change” and ongoing realignments throughout the network.
But the firm's global reach and strong offering allowed it to hold onto its major clients and accounts. The only significant loss Euro RSCG Life has suffered, Oporia aside, was that of its Crestor business in Portugal, Pantello says.

The coming year won't bring any breaks, as Pantello sees a host of pressures buffeting the drug industry and medical agencies.

“Medicare Part D is one of the biggest changes clients are going to have to navigate,” says Pantello. “For the first time, maybe half the marketplace now has de facto price controls, and that changes how manufacturers have to market their brands and changes the kinds of things we are going to be producing.” Add in the increasingly aggressive encroachment of generics, and Pantello sees increased pressure for switches impacting sales as PBOs grow more assertive.

A parallel trend is that involving cost pressures on agencies to do more for less. “We continue to be constrained by our costs, by negotiation of fees and the continued pressure on agencies to lower prices. It's almost a genericizing of our business,” says Pantello. “Unless the industry wakes up and begins to address the issues that keep clients up at night, we're going to become a less relevant, more transactional industry without much intellectual property to sell.”

Euro RSCG Life has proven resilient in the past, seemingly thriving on adversity. The network endured a kitchen sink restructuring just three years ago, bucked the trend toward holding company consolidation and stymied bigger firms, hanging on to accounts that are the envy of medical advertising. For all its brand heritage and sterling creative cred, the Havas network will need every ounce of that moxie going forward.

Euro RSCG Life Chelsea
It wasn't a big new-business year for the New York agency, although Chelsea did land new accounts from Wyeth and Shire. Rather, according to president Ed Stapor, the shop's focus was on staffing up and accommodating existing business. “We want to make sure we take care of our current clients first,” says Stapor.

Chelsea lost 40% of its business when it was formed from the merger of Robert A. Becker and Questar in 2004, but it wasted little time in reducing the deficit with new accounts. A personnel shortage resulted from a strong 2005, though the firm has been able to narrow the gap from 25% to 10% in the past year.

Over the last 12 months, the firm lost Genzyme's Synvisc but won several new accounts from Wyeth, including an Enbrel global patient initiative and two indications for a new antidepressant. In addition, the shop picked up a new GI drug from Shire.

The agency, whose major accounts include Effexor XR, Protonix and Celgene, is ramping up its direct-to-patient (DTP) capabilities, says Stapor, who puts its DTP business at around 10% to 15% advertising promotion, but expects patient marketing to boom. “Broadcast is going to wane in favor of more strategic approaches,” says Stapor. “Clients are looking for more senior attention on their business and more strategic contributions.” Chelsea offers clients a “brand champion” on each brand and a minimum team of three account execs, regardless of the brand's size.

“We're now in a position to have a coming out party this year,” says Stapor, who sees LM&P as an agency that is known for its intellect, its energy and its proactive responsiveness. “People are going to see a lot more of us,” he adds.

Euro RSCG Life LM&P
Fresh from its launch of Lyrica, LM&P is gearing up for the rollout of another big Pfizer drug: smoking-cessation treatment Chantix. The firm was stung by the losses of Oporia and Bextra, but picked up Pfizer's experimental HIV treatment, Maraviroc, along with Wyeth's pneumoccocal vaccine Prevnar outside the US and Talecris Biotherapeutics' Gamunex.

“Despite the management changes, we have a real commitment to doing great work for our clients,” said president Robert Levine, who replaced Laliberte earlier this year. “We have seen that in people's perseverance and dedication to keeping an eye on the business.” The implementation of a new strategic plan helped in honing that focus, Levine says. “The way we approached developing that as a discipline was really great for us.”

LM&P may have lost Laliberte but the shop gained a new creative director—Marylin Yanowitch, formerly of Lowe McAdams.

Euro RSCG Life MetaMax
The firm's dedicated Sanofi-Aventis shop held on to its core business with the French drug giant's diabetes franchise and expanded its client roster nicely, adding Endo, Novartis and Abbott business amid a hectic launch schedule.

MetaMax picked up the professional advertising business for Abbott's Biaxin XL, Novartis' Benefiber and Endo's Synera, which the shop launched last month, even as it relaunched Biogen Idec's Tysabri globally and in the US. MetaMax also launched Apidra for Sanofi-Aventis, which kept its Lovenox, Lantus and OptiClik business with the agency, which was purposefully built to handle Aventis brands.

The firm, which was cobbled together in 2003 from New York-based LM&P Questar and Lambertville, NJ-based Riverworks, had to fend off a tough challenge from Publicis when Sanofi acquired Aventis and consolidated most of its assignments into Havas' French rival. MetaMax's selling point was its cross-channel capability, and that proposition has served it well—not only on the Sanofi business, says president Doug Burcin.

“Our original reason for being was to have one agency that worked across all channels,” says Burcin, “and that collaborative mindset is one that's found a marketplace and attracted interest both from existing clients and new ones.”

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