The Top 40: KPR

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Like many of his peers, KPR president and CEO Stu Klein chirps hopefully about “getting ourselves up to the next level” and producing work “that has the real, deep insights of what you see from the biggest consumer brands.”

“We're still a work in progress, but everything seems to be coming together in the perfect storm,” he says. (After a pause, he adds, "Or whatever the good version of a ‘perfect storm' is.")

The structural and cultural tweaks, designed to encourage greater management involvement in client business, came with some expected headaches. “Like with anything else, there are people willing to get on board and people who aren't,” Klein says. While he speaks proudly of “the birth of a truly new KPR,” Klein remains firmly grounded in the here and now.

The Omnicom Group-owned agency received a boost last year via the addition of several key personnel, notably Omnicom vets Colleen Katzman (executive vice president) and Jennifer Kaminski (“She's our senior-most art person and she's terrific—I have no idea what title we gave her,” Klein quips).

He is quick, however, to stress that he isn't downplaying the role played by KPR's longstanding staffers: “They've got a reverence for the idea that can transcend everything else that's out there.”
Klein hasn't entirely dispensed with bigger-picture concerns, of course. He laments the difficulty of differentiating relatively similar brands in a tightly regulated environment. “All drugs are different, but within some categories the differences are minor,” he explains. “Sometimes it comes down to who's the smartest marketer, like it does in packaged goods. ‘Our molecule is a unique entity' only takes you so far nowadays.”

He clams up when asked about KPR's new-business record over the last year or so, noting the gag orders of many companies within the world of pharmaceuticals. The agency seems to have done quite well for itself during that time, however, with the scorecard tallying six wins against a single loss.

KPR's brand and creative folk currently find themselves working on a new product launch for Organon, and remain very much involved with projects from longtime clients Centocor, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Merck and Schering-Plough.

Klein openly enthuses about the firm's ongoing work for Jazz Pharmaceuticals on the narcolepsy therapy Xyrem. “It's revolutionary in that the way it treats narcolepsy is different than anything else out there,” he says. “It's a unique way to treat the condition. You sleep better so you're more rested, but it's not like popping an Ambien.”

As for that thing he mentioned about taking KPR to the metaphorical next level, Klein hopes to jump the agency's size from 110–120 staffers to somewhere in the 150 range before too long. He attaches his own asterisk to that projection, however: “I've seen agencies go from 50 to 150 in no time at all, and just about all of them fall back to 75 or 100. It's not pretty.”

Klein concedes that KPR will have to expand its professional and scientific breadth. “There are certain therapeutic areas that we don't have much of a presence in right now,” he says. “But we're better aligned to get those clients and brands than we ever were. Hopefully I'll have something to report before too long.”

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