Consumer advertising may be leveling off at last, but the McCann consumer shop is in the midst of its fifth and busiest ever year, according to managing director Andrew Schirmer, with double-digit growth despite the loss of the prized Lunesta account.
With new management on Lunesta from brand team to board room and the $600 million drug's growth slowing, Sepracor held a pitch on the business and awarded it to Kaplan Thaler in January, after more than four years with McCann HumanCare. Sepracor has spent heavily on consumer advertising for the drug—$272 million in 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence. On McCann HumanCare's watch, it became consistently the most-recognized prescription drug brand, the iconic moth flitting across the TV screens of millions of sleep-deprived Americans and helping make the drug competitive with Sanofi-Aventis' Ambien franchise.
Schirmer isn't losing sleep over it. “It's tough for us, because we kind of grew up with that company and brand, and in terms of our accomplishments, I couldn't be prouder, but we also understand that there are life cycles of brands, and five years is a pretty good run.”
Though McCann “didn't pitch hard last year” while digesting wins from 2006, the shop still pulled in several wins, wresting the Detrol assignment from Saatchi & Saatchi, together with a developmental Pfizer drug. Novartis awarded HumanCare its Aclasta global (Reclast) consumer business, along with three other premarket drugs.
“All of our clients are getting us involved as consumer experts and patient experts in brand development earlier on,” says Schirmer. “It's a different kind of work, because it's more consultative and strategic and less execution, but we hope it leads to the latter.”
Schirmer says the firm continues to see strong organic growth through its three primary clients: Pfizer, for which it handles Viagra, Chantix, Detrol and Aricept; GlaxoSmithKline, whose HumanCare assignments include Avodart, Cervarix, Requip and Coreg CR; and Novartis, with the aforementioned Reclast business.
“When I look at some agency rosters, I see a bunch of brands and manufacturers scattered about,” says Schirmer. “Our philosophy is, let's do great work for our core clients and they'll allow us to grow with them, as opposed to us continually being on the hunt out there looking for new dates.”
HumanCare also handles consumer accounts for Galderma's Collagenics and Nestle, as well as General Mills. It seems counterintuitive for a firm associated with consumer advertising of blockbuster drugs, but global assignments are a major growth area for HumanCare as companies marketing OTC drugs and consumer products with health and wellness propositions look for partners with healthcare expertise.
Schirmer has high hopes for McCann Salud, the company's multicultural marketing division, primarily targeting Hispanics, that he says has been growing at a rapid clip under the direction of Walter Arenzon. However, he acknowledges that the unit's growth has so far failed to keep up with the potential. “Clients talk about the importance of inclusion and cultural sensitivity, and we get all excited and engaged, and then when the cuts come around, it's the easiest thing to cut,” says Schirmer.