The Top 60: KPR
Last year was about rebuilding for KPR. Former president and CEO Stu Klein left in the first quarter to pursue other interests, and Robin Roberts, who had 15 years experience at KPR, returned as chief strategic and marketing officer after a six-month stint at another agency. She and chief creative officer Jeff Cammisa now lead KPR. Revenue and headcount (currently 95) held steady amid the reorganization.
“We spent 2007 shoring up, stabilizing and defining,” Roberts says. “We looked at the structure of the organization, how it was functioning and how we needed to evolve. Silos aren't necessarily relevant anymore, and our clients are really looking for creative business solutions not necessarily just a copy solution, an art solution or a direct marketing solution. We haven't abandoned disciplines, but a creative business solution can come from anywhere, and we're encouraging people to cross-pollinate.” Roberts and Cammisa knew they needed to “differentiate the work” and increase “client service acumen.” Among the first orders of business was recruiting Jennifer Boehmer as director of client services. Boehmer had left KPR a year and a half earlier to join another agency, and Roberts and Cammisa are thrilled to have her back.
Roberts notes that she's “a great mentor and she intuitively understands what each client needs.”
A design group was formed, which Roberts and Cammisa explain was key to evolving the agency. “We had senior art people who were very good thinkers, who understood business issues, but spent a lot of time doing more menial execution tasks,” Cammisa says. “We wanted to maximize them—that meant letting them spend more time on the idea and less time on the execution. The design group could take that off their plate and elevate the work.”
To staff the design group, KPR recruited from design schools, such as Parsons. Hiring outside traditional pools is helping overcome what Cammisa refers to as the “sea of sameness” in healthcare advertising.
“Design school hires bring special skills, a fresh look for the industry and a fresh look into the design of our work,” he explains. “They've been able to help differentiate products.”
Roberts notes that the vision for 12-18 months from now is to have the group splitting its time equally between KPR work and design-only projects, such as corporate branding projects and possibly some projects outside traditional pharma.
Media director Amy Levinson, who has been at KPR close to 20 years, led the evolution of the media group into a planning & analytics group, which now includes both planning around channels and working in the media market research.
Roberts says many clients won't allow the agency to talk about the work it's doing. She reports one win and no losses in 2007. Nameable on the overall client roster are: Johnson & Johnson (multiple operating units & brands), Schering-Plough (multiple brands), Eli Lilly and Jazz Pharmaceuticals.
Cammisa and Roberts count the design group, Boehmer's return and defining core values for the agency among last year's achievements.
Focusing the agency was the biggest challenge of 2007. This year the team is pitching more, and “pushing proactive new business efforts in a focused way,” according to Roberts. Cammisa adds that organic growth “has been a big part of the agency,” and additional work has come in already this year from existing clients.