LehmanMillet continued on its trajectory of strong growth and expansion, gaining 25% last year over a record-breaking 2006. Headcount in-creased from 70 to 81, and staff in both the Boston and Irvine offices moved into bigger spaces.
“For years we were a device and diagnostics agency,” says CEO Bruce Lehman. “In 2007 we expanded to include specialty pharmaceuticals. By end of last year, specialty medical products represented almost 40%, and I expect it to increase by the end of 2008.”
The agency won 17 accounts and lost two—Abbott Point of Care and LifeCell. Among specialty sectors, aesthetics is booming, and LehmanMillet picked up consumer and professional work for Obagi Medical Products' portfolio of physician-dispensed skin-care products. Other wins include Alaven Pharmaceutical's Rowasa franchise; Genzyme's Carticel; Sony Medical Division (professional promotion for a new line of HD monitors and other HD peripherals); and a multichannel launch of Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems' access2wellness. Both account planning and interactive practices grew substantially. Account planning, which has always been a cornerstone, doubled in size by the end of 2007. Work for all of the agency's clients includes some element of interactive. “Many traditional ad agencies thought of interactive as an add-on,” Lehman notes. “It's woven into the fabric of everything else we do, and that's very rewarding to me.”
Acquiring talent was last year's biggest challenge. Though Lehman says HealthSTAR Communications colleagues in New York and Connecticut have reported difficulty in finding people, he gets “the sense that it's far more challenging in Boston and Southern California.”
The agency has had from eight to 10 positions open at any given time over the last year. Talent is sought from across the US, via search firms and ads, but Lehman says employee referrals have yielded the best results in terms of fit, quality and contribution.
“We're very fortunate in that we have long-tenured people,” he says. “If they make it through the first six months, they tend to be keepers.”
Boston leadership shifted last year after president Jack Curran left for personal reasons. Deborah Lotterman was promoted to EVP, managing director and creative director, and Lee Kent was promoted to SVP, director of client service.
Lehman says the agency is staying on top of the trends of personalization and transparency.
“We've moved from mass marketing to personalized marketing, and that's even true with healthcare professionals,” he explains. “In our categories—particularly in the specialty arenas where audiences are smaller—modified mass marketing still tends to work because you can segment. But across the board, because of the internet and all the ways in which people receive information today, communications outreach is getting more and more personalized.”
Revenue is expected to increase again this year by more than 20%. The first quarter has proven very strong—new wins include consumer and professional promotional responsibilities for Artes Medical's ArteFill and AOR assignments from Hologic (formerly Cytyc) for its ThinPrep Pap Test (which the agency launched 18 years ago) and from Abbott Nutrition for its pediatrics franchise. “I see this as a year of optimization,” Lehman says. “We're probably not going to open another office in 2008. We're going absorb new people and new clients and make sure our offices operate at the highest performance levels possible.”
Though the agency will celebrate its 30th anniversary at the end of 2008, Lehman isn't thinking about retiring just yet. “I'm enjoying watching the generation of leaders take charge,” he says. “They allow me to meddle where I feel I can make contributions.”