When considering Centron, the word “supernova” comes to mind—and it isn't much of an exaggeration. The agency rounds its third year this fall, propelled by explosive 75% growth in revenue and headcount (2007 over 2006).
“It's been really fun,” says president Marcia McLaughlin. “I've been in this industry almost 30 years, and the only other time I had this much fun was when I first became an account executive and everything was new and growing and exciting.”
Organic growth helped fuel the huge revenue increase, with additional business coming in from Duramed; Solvay (Parkinson's product); and Stiefel Laboratories (Soriatane, Verdeso, Olux, Olux-E, and Luxiq). “Organic growth has been a pattern,” McLaughlin says. “It's good for everybody.”
New wins included Eisai (Ontak, Targretin Capsules and Targretin Gel, plus corporate work assigned in 2008); Velcade from Millennium Pharmaceuticals; and Pfizer's Aromasin, MSG. This year, Centron also won new depression products from Lundbeck/Takeda.
To accommodate staff (currently at 60), the agency took over another floor. Madeleine Gold joined as managing director on the ad side, and David Benowitz was hired as managing director of the promotional med ed group. McLaughlin says the groups work closely together, and integration has been key to growth.
“We spent 25 years at Omnicom,” McLaughlin says, referring to herself and chief creative officer Michael Metelenis with whom she shared the co-president position at KPR before founding Centron. “That wasn't an integrated world. We really wanted to create an integrated world. It's easier to share and collaborate when you are smaller in size.” McLaughlin explains that she and Metelenis wanted to work more closely with clients, and they've attracted like-minded talent. “We're filled with senior people that want to touch clients, not manage large numbers of people,” she says.
Though selective about recruiting, hiring hasn't been a problem. “Many senior people don't want to work business,” McLaughlin says. “You have to pick the ones who want to work with clients.”
Unlike many agencies, McLaughlin has a waiting list of people she wants to bring on board as growth allows. “Now that we have a little bit of critical mass, that next tier of people who initially wanted to wait and see how we did are calling,” she says. “That may change as time goes on. That wasn't the way it was when running a large agency. A lot of small agencies have grown to midsize quickly and, because of that, people are starting to consider whether or not they want to be at a big agency.”
The regulatory environment and budget pressure have driven clients to demand “fast, demonstrable impact” of programs. “We need to show ROI more quickly,” McLaughlin says.
In anticipation of growth, Centron has taken on enough additional office space to grow into. “The biggest challenge is going to be managing growth and staying true to our mission of giving senior level strategic attention to every client. That's what clients need to help them solve their problems. We're going to continue to give innovative programming—we just need to do that for a significantly larger client base.”