The Top 60: Altum

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Altum, Latin for “depth,” celebrated its third year anniversary in 2007, winning three new global accounts. “It has been an excellent year in the context of a rough market,” says Altum president Michael Parisi. “We had an excess of 30% growth, and we continue to grow.”

Parisi explains that the agency “spent 2006 in the pitch business,” and has now reaped some of the rewards. “We expanded with [Johnson & Johnson] and continued to grow internationally and in the United States. Our unique focus on biotech and specialty areas was a perfect fit for J&J's vision,” he says. Altum picked up Dacogen, a myelodysplastic syndrome drug from Pharmaceutical Group Strategic Marketing, a global division of J&J. Additionally, Altum was awarded the global account on Acuvue, a J&J Vision Care contact lens.

Despite those successes, Parisi says market dynamics in general have been tightening, and that affects everyone. Altum saw two products receive label changes in 2007, one being the Bristol-Myers Squibb drug Sprycel. New labeling approved by the FDA included a lower recommended starting dose last November. Safety concerns over Ortho Biotech's anemia drug Procrit engendered a political response. Parisi isn't surprised. “You can look in the news on any given day and pharma is getting slammed. The public eye and sensitivity levels in general have increased dramatically. Even things we do at conventions and at trade shows…people are very conscious of [advertising activities in the industry].
However, the agency is geared up for new launches. In 2006, Altum won Bayer HealthCare's Campath. This year, Campath received a new indication, and its first global line launch, according to Parisi. “We're buckled in on a couple of product launches,” he says. “We've just landed the first-ever cancer therapeutic vaccine approved in Russia, with Antigenic's Oncophage.” 

Altum's concentration lies in specialty markets, with a focus on oncology, biologics and biotechnology. “We have expertise across the board,” says Parisi. “Chronic kidney disease, cancer and AIDS are the three areas with the deepest level of experience. Our tagline, ‘where specialty brands thrive,' is our marching order. It's about products that save lives.” Altum's Competitive Health, a new service that launched this year, offers clients a serious engagement with strategies ranging from brand positioning and investment, to sales force technique and patient engagement. This service can be delivered “as fast as in a one-hour workshop.” 

Expertise is important when you're in the business of global specialty brands. “Carolyn Grande is actively recruiting talent. Our best recruiters are our current staff and clients,” says Parisi. The agency's 2007 expansion included Dr. Brian Pike, PhD, a molecular biologist and student of public health. 
As a member of the CommonHealth network, Altum takes active advantage of its many resources. For instance, CommonHealth launched a Global Talent Share Program in 2007. Anne Brown, a senior copywriter at Altum, was the first participant. She spent three months at the CommonHealth London office. Parisi says the “active exchange program with Paris and London” is a way to broaden perspectives of employees. 

Another highlight for Parisi was Altum's pro bono CancerCare campaign, which featured an art program for children. The company also works with the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization. 
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