The Top 40: The Hal Lewis Group

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The Hal Lewis Group last year adopted a sunflower as its image. The image denotes positive thinking and is accompanied by the tag line “growing greatness.” President David Winigrad and senior director of business development Maureen Mangiavas count the success of the self-branding campaign among last year's highlights because it was well received, generating attention from clients and prospects, and because it brought a consistent, unified image to the agency and its customers.

Sunflowers are also perennial, and, perhaps not coincidentally, The Hal Lewis Group has been growing for as long as Winigrad can remember. Revenues were up about 6% over 2004, and Winigrad says the agency is still “digesting the work” won in the latter half of 2005.

“We absorbed so much new business last year,” Winigrad says. “Our challenges are getting talent and experience on board to meet our clients' expectations.”

Total headcount last year was up by four. The creative leadership team was rounded out with Helen Boke, creative director of art, and Sam Lowe, creative director of copy. A number of new art directors and copywriters were hired, and account management was “strengthened.” The agency also invested in training, particularly in strategy.

The Hal Lewis Group was named agency of record for three new clients: Aspect Medical Systems, for BIS Vista brain-monitoring technology; Healthpoint Ltd. for the dermatological treatments Accuzyme, Panafil, Xenaderm and the relaunch of the Oasis Wound Matrix; and MDS Pharma Services for corporate promotion work.

Meanwhile, new project account wins came in from drug discovery and development company Incyte, for early product branding and naming; German manufacturer Vetter Pharma for corporate advertising and market research to build a US communications platform; DuPont Corporation for branding work on a worldwide HR initiative; and King Pharmaceuticals for strategy work in the erectile dysfunction space.

The agency's relationship with existing client BD Pharmaceutical Systems expanded this year to include work in its medical and surgical division.

In terms of big-picture challenges, Winigrad notes that cost containment, reimbursement issues, and risk aversion are three pharma industry issues that get passed on to agencies, while Mangiavas calls the tarnished image of the pharma industry “disheartening.”

Winigrad sees the emphasis on, and interest in, digital as a trend with important implications. “It's very encouraging that rather than putting digital and Internet into its own separate silo, there's an emerging appreciation that digital goes across all marketing,” he says. “It shouldn't been seen as something that needs to be handled by a separate agency. It's digital plus professional, plus public relations, plus direct-to-consumer. The lines are blurring. All marketing levers will avail themselves to digital.”

To that end, the agency is looking at adding digital services and products, and it is considering strategic alliances. In addition, it will launch a new Internet-based initiative this fall.

“You have to develop in a way that enables the evolution of communications,” Mangiavas says of the new developments. “Traditions change. As people wish to receive information in different ways, a communications company has to be able to respond. We are evolving along with the external world.”

Mangiavas is excited that healthcare providers are using technology and interactive tools to receive information. “[People in the] healthcare sector have been slow adopters,” she says. “Now, they are positively responding to how this helps them get information in a new way. It will be an important way to communicate to physicians in coming years.”

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