Echo Torre Lazur bills itself as a small shop with a big global network behind it. “What sets us apart is that we do have an intimate involvement with clients and brands, and at the same time, we have access to bigger resources,” says president Joe Poggi. “It's the best of both worlds. We're able to be nimble, agile and involved at all levels like a smaller entrepreneurial shop but at the same time have access to the resources of a larger shop.”
The McCann agency had an “interesting” year, says Poggi, ultimately racking up double-digit growth despite some setbacks—the worst of which was Sepracor's severing of its partnership with McCann. In tandem with sibling McCann HumanCare on consumer, echo Torre Lazur handled the professional assignment on Lunesta, as well as work on Xopenex and Brovana. That affiliation ended in June.
Echo Torre Lazur suffered another “act of God” in September, when the FDA issued a non-approvable letter on Novartis' Cox-2 lumiracoxib (Prexige, ex-US), for which the shop had the US professional assignment, after safety issues emerged at higher dosages.
On the upside, the agency landed more business with GlaxoSmithKline, taking on GSK's flu and HIV franchises, along with HPV vaccine Cervarix. GSK flu brands, which the agency landed in January 2007, include Fluarix, FluLaval and Relenza, and echo Torre Lazur also took on the pandemic planning assignment. GSK's HIV franchise, for which Echo Torre Lazur won the professional assignment in April 2007, includes Lexiva, Epzicom, Combivir and Trizivir.
The firm also won assignments for Oscient's Antara lipid drug and Factive antibiotic, along with an Axcan Pharma pancreatic enzyme deficiency drug.
Staffing remained more or less flat at somewhere between 60 and 70, with one hire of note. Jay Barber joined the shop from Sanofi-Pasteur, where he spent 14 years in a variety of sales posts, as senior vice president, account director in charge of client business together with Jesse Johanson. Mark Willmann was promoted to SVP, director of scientific integration while Steve Gourley and Jennifer Rodriguez were promoted to group creative directors, of art and copy, respectively. Juan Ramos and Tracy Blackwell continue to lead the creative and operational functions.
Willmann's role, says Poggi, “plays a critical role in helping ID components or proprietary things about the science of a brand that can be leveraged both creatively and tactically—it's the glue that holds them together,” a function gaining tremendous importance as agencies take on more and earlier pre-market brands.
Poggi says professional agencies are “coming under unprecedented scrutiny in terms of, ‘Is the spend and the mix smart?'” and are forced to step up their game.
“Our clients are under pressure and we are too,” says Poggi. “Gone are the days when professional spending was a foregone conclusion and didn't come under the same pressures as other components. So we are challenged to come up with innovative ways to reach, influence, motivate and target audiences, whether physicians, managed care, patients, third-party organizations or caregivers. It's about coming to clients with solutions, ways to reach their audiences and make their assets more effective. At the same time, what we're delivering has to really resonate with those customers.”
Effortless integration across professional and consumer channels is also vital, says Poggi, pointing to the agency's work with McCann HumanCare on Cervarix and other brands. “Now, more than ever, it's being in lock-step with the various disciplines, whether it's DTC, relationship marketing, patient outreach, adherence or med ed, we need to be delivering messages that are aligned in a way that matters to our end audience. We're fortunate to have a very strong network where we work closely with our partners at McCann HumanCare, picking each other's brains to make sure we're speaking a common language and execute appropriately to different audiences.”