The Top 50: echo Torre Lazur

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Echo Torre Lazur bills itself as an agency that offers that small-shop feel with big network resources, but the East Hanover, NJ firm is growing rapidly on the heels of a trio of new accounts from GlaxoSmithKline.

President Joe Poggi expects the company, currently at around 80 staff, will have grown 25-30% in calendar year 2007 with the recent addition of: US professional promotion on GSK’s Cervarix; the GSK flu franchise, including Relenza, Fluarix and pandemic planning; and GSK’s HIV franchise, including Lexiva. In the past year, the firm has also picked up work on Novartis’ developmental Cox-2 drug, lumiracoxib, on Niaspan (won weeks before Abbott’s acquisition of Kos) and on a minimally invasive surgery for Ethicon Endo-Surgery.

It wasn’t quite all good news for Echo Torre Lazur, as the firm’s long-running assignment on Roche’s Pegasys Hepatitis C treatment came to an end with the arrival of a new leadership team bent on shaking things up. Echo Torre Lazur declined to pitch for the business, which it has handled for eight years.
“We’re really proud of that work,” Poggi says. “We helped make it a market leader.”
The agency continues to handle Sepracor’s respiratory franchise, including bronchodilator Xopenex and COPD drug Brovana, which had its professional launch in April, along with the account that vaulted them into medical advertising’s big leagues—Lunesta.

“The attention that’s garnered us has been fantastic,” says Poggi, who says prospective clients often tell him they know the firm through its Lunesta work.

Together with Sepracor, Zeno Group and sibling McCann HumanCare, echo Torre Lazur won the 2005 MM&M Gold Award for Best Total Integration Program in a company under $5 billion in sales for its Lunesta creative.

The agency relaunched a reformulated Niaspan for Abbott last in May. Cervarix and lumiracoxib are, pending approval, expected to launch early next year.
Echo Torre Lazur’s expertise is in-office personal promotion, with sales aids and materials for lunch n’ learns, KOL DVDs, etc. making up 70-80% of business, the remainder being divided between exhibits, videos and journal ads.

“A lot of what we do in terms of journal ads and non-personal stuff emanates from what we do on the personal side,” says Poggi. “We have a lot of clients who are questioning more and more the return on journal ads. I believe in it, I think it plays a critical role in the marketing mix, providing that higher-level air cover, if you will. But reps remain the largest investment, and that’s where we’re seeing more and more of the investment going—toward gaining access and making a message that will motivate script writing.”

By category, the company’s expertise is chiefly in vaccines and infectious diseases, but there’s room for growth there, says Poggi. They’d like to take on another hepatitis C product, and are looking to move into a host of other categories including cardiovascular, CNS, diabetes, women’s health and imaging/contrast agents.

Senior staff remains stable, with EVP-creative directors Juan Ramos and Tracy Blackwell presiding over art and copy, respectively, SVP account director Jesse Johanson tending to clients and VP-director, scientific integration Mark Willman heading medical affairs. Agency leadership, says Poggi, remains hands-on.

“It’s something we pride ourselves on, that we’re involved in all of our business,” he says. “We’re pretty flat, with kind of a small agency entrepreneurial environment.”

The challenge for agencies like Echo Torre Lazur, says Poggi, is rethinking personal promotion in an age of increasingly elusive docs with little time to spare.

“It’s not whizbang stuff like globalization or new technology,” he says. “The fundamental issue is how to more effectively promote products to our customers given that limited interaction. How do we really break through and relevantly communicate this brand to the customer in a way that delivers value?”

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