The Top 60: Pacific Communications

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It was another outstanding year for California-based Pacific Communications. The agency had 11 wins, no losses and revenue for 2007 rose 17% (on the heels of 23% growth the previous year), surpassing the $28 million mark for the first time. Staff increased 32% and is standing at 140 currently.

“Not losing any business, winning significant business, and growing staff by 32% is a pretty difficult trifecta—one you'd take anytime,” says president Ryan Abbate. “We put a hiatus on new business for a while because we were trying to catch up. At end of 2006, we decided to re-emphasize new business, and it paid off. It's been a lot of fun.”

The agency brought more diversity and continued to expand in diagnostics and therapeutics. New wins include Allergan's Breast Aesthetics and Ivivi SofPulse; Johnson & Johnson's Prevacare; NeurogesX's NGX-4010; and seven different assignments from San Diego-based specialty pharma company Prometheus.

“We have a great, expanding relationship with Prometheus,” Abbate says. “It's an interesting company because of the mix of device and therapeutics, which have been strange bedfellows. Most companies haven't been able to make that mix work.”

Pacific faced “significant competition” from “big players” on the East Coast to win both the NeurogesX (San Francisco-based) and Prometheus. “To win in that environment is always gratifying,” Abbate notes.

Finding talent on the West Coast is no small feat.  Abbate recruits aggressively and constantly. “We're appealing,” Abbate says. “Our growth and success over the past five years speaks for itself. We've imported a lot of talent from the East Coast. We screen people who have a predisposition to making a move across the country. Once they've made that decision, we're the most appealing opportunity on the West Coast.”

Barry Bauling was hired last year as SVP/director of client services. Abbate says Bauling is a highly strategic thinker who fits in perfectly. This year, Peter Siegel made an impact when he joined from Philadelphia shop The Hal Lewis Group as EVP/creative director after former creative director Ron Ovadia retired.

Abbate sees the fundamentals of healthcare advertising remaining the same, though he says execution will become more dynamic. “Interactive is a cornerstone of everything we do,” he adds. “Consumer will continue to play an important role. The content will be similar, it's just the ways in which we deliver will change with technology.” He says promotion is becoming more about relationships, and technology plays a big role. 

This year is shaping up to be another strong year. After a shootout, Pacific won DTC business for Botox Hyperhidrosis Consumer (it already had Botox Hyperhidrosis Professional). Abbate says the win was “extremely gratifying” because the agency isn't typically considered a DTC agency.

“Prudence is the biggest thing for us this year,” Abbate says. “Most of our clients are reacting as you would expect to the downturn in the economy— they're reducing budgets. While we're not losing business, we're sometimes losing money through decline in budgets. I think the trend for this year is doing the most you can with less money. We're in a great position to do that because that's always been the charge from the kinds of clients we've had. We're a specialty agency, and we have good success getting outcomes on a shoestring.”  

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