The Top 40: inVentiv Communications

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New business has continued to flourish for the agency network formerly known as inChord. In September 2005, inChord became a wholly-owned subsidiary of healthcare sales and service provider Ventiv Health, following the close of a $185 million deal. Ventiv later rebranded itself as inVentiv Health to reflect the acquisition.

Former inChord CEO Blane Walter was named president of the communications portion of the business, which now falls under the banner of the inVentiv Communications division of inVentiv Health.

Although the changes raised eyebrows on Wall Street, they did little to interrupt the flow of work into the four inChord professional ad agencies—GSW Worldwide, Palio Communications, Navicor Group and Stonefly Communications Group.
“It has been a remarkably beautiful ride,” says Phil Deschamps, president of inVentiv Communications' flagship agency, GSW Worldwide. “All of us were a bit apprehensive, as you could imagine. We were messing with a very successful model. What was great was that they don't do what we do and we don't do what they do. We have seen a merger of expanding quality services with a wonderful vision for the services we provide.”

GSW Worldwide
GSW experienced no account losses during the last 12 months and won major new business from Ortho-McNeil. The new account, Deschamps explains, led to the establishment of a GSW branch office in Newtown, PA to allow staff to be closer to the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary as they worked on the account.

GSW also added work for Cephalon's oncology franchise, MGI Pharmaceuticals and consumer and professional work around Roche's Tamiflu.

“We had our best year ever,” Deschamps says. “We really focused on executing all of the existing client business by continuing to expand our national network of agencies. We also expanded in Brazil, Russia and in China during the last year in partnerships with agencies in those markets.”
GSW is inVentiv Communications' largest agency with over 400 employees at locations that include its Columbus, OH headquarters, offices in New York, Newtown, PA, Canada and the UK.

“It's grow or die in our business, so we fully expect to continue to progress. The growth that we are looking for is going to rely equally on new and old business in the organic sense and we hope about half of our growth will come from existing clients wanting to do more business with us.”

Palio Communications
Palio Communications is the second largest inVentiv Communications shop with around 120 employees. During the past 12 months, roles there have changed, business has grown and talent development has been placed on the front burner of the seven-year-old agency.

In December, co-founder and former Palio president Ed Mitzen took on the role of Palio CEO to focus his energies on the corporate side of the business, while co-founder Mike Myers became agency president and co-founder Guy Mastrion was named chief creative officer and head of global business.

Palio's global business has already begun to blossom during Mastrion's tenure with account wins coming from Valiant Pharmaceuticals for its Kinerase skin care cream and a global brand from Novartis, according to Myers and Mastrion.

The agency expanded its US business with existing clients including GlaxoSmithKline, which awarded the agency professional account for the developmental human papillomavirus vaccine Cervarix and work for biotech firm Cephalon.

However, the biggest thing to happen at Palio during the last year “was maybe the least newsworthy,” says Myers. “We realized the company was evolving away from what we originally wanted it to be. We weren't broken but we decided to fix ourselves before we were broken—before a client told us we were on our way out the door. We engaged a consultant and spent a lot of time with this individual. For about six to eight months, we took apart the company.”
Mastrion adds, “We were moving so fast, having one success after the next. Somehow, it felt like it was all happening so quickly, like we really weren't in control. We decided to take a breather and break the place down into identifiable functions, parts and attitudes. We did an attitude exploration of who we want to be and what is driving all of us. We really wanted to understand how everyone was feeling and thinking about the business. We established a set of core values really at the heart and soul of the place, based on staff interviews and surveys … We were really focusing on what can we do to improve ourselves and to make sure all of our existing customers get the best out of us they can. [As a result,] we turned down a lot of business, some of them on very big brands, because we wanted to manage our growth effectively.”

The Navicor Group
InVentiv Communications' oncology and immunology agency, The Navicor Group, has been in business since 2004 and during the past 12 months has seen a growth in both client  and staff numbers.

New accounts included work for a Roche Oncology pipeline cancer treatment and Gilead Sciences' Hepsera for Hepatitis B. “These were two really good wins for us,” says Navicor president Garnett Dezember. “We are excited to be working with those folks.”

The agency handled work for Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers Squibb Oncology, Onyx Pharmaceuticals and Bayer during the past year.

As other agencies struggle to acquire and retain top-level talent, finding good folks to man the ship has proved less difficult at Navicor, Dezember says. The agency added seven new employees in the last year.

“Recruiting has not been a problem. One of the interesting things has been that as word gets out about the Navicor Group, our vision to transform products into brands and patients into survivors has resonated with a lot of folks. They share our vision and have a passion for the oncology and HIV and immunology areas. They have sought us out. It's why we have gotten such great people.”

Stonefly Communications Group
“The past year was kind of our first full year in the marketplace and it was a great year,” says John Racik, CEO of the nearly two-year-old, 35-person inVentiv Communications  unit, Stonefly, based in Columbus, OH.

During the past year, Stonefly helped launch Invamed Pharma's Iplex and did work for Novartis' medical nutrition division.

Racik adds, “It's been an exciting time. Two and a half years ago, when we came up with the idea for Stonefly, quite frankly, the last thing the industry needed was another traditional advertising agency. You had the big conglomerates, people that put out very nifty looking detail aids, and file cards. And some of them even do a good job with Web sites. That market was kind of saturated. We took it upon ourselves to go out and talk to our customers and ask, ‘What do you need? What keeps you up at night?' Merging the idea of the consultant with a really great ad agency and coming up with a client advisor is really paying dividends for our clients.”

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