The Top 60: Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Communications

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Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Communications Group is wrapping up a radical repositioning, aimed at transforming a mainline healthcare advertising juggernaut into a sort of next-generation digital/CRM shop—and a sought-after workplace.

To get there, the network brought on new talent with expertise in digital and relationship marketing, retained two futurist consultancies—DYG and Inferential Focus —to tell them where consumers (and healthcare professionals) are going and tried to get there first.

“What's neat about it is it looks like nothing out there,” says president Sam Welch. “It's a hybrid of the best of the agency world, the best of the consulting world and the best of the digital world. It's a pretty fundamental shift for how we operate as a company and what our deliverable is.”

In a nutshell, the agency, perhaps best known for blockbuster TV campaigns, is moving away from “push” marketing and toward “pull” marketing.

“Really, what we're doing is modifying our skillset to be much more about how consumers take in their media now,” says Welch. “It's not just, ‘Let me throw a rep or an ad in your face.' It's consumers defining how they want to take in their media, where they get their information from and who their trusted sources are, and healthcare communications companies need to understand that.”

At the agency's consumer arm, Saatchi + Saatchi Consumer Health and Wellness, this more holistic approach has transformed the way the agency conceptualizes campaigns. “In the old days, we would present a storyboard,” says EVP, managing director Jim Joseph. “We would say, ‘Here are the TV screens, and here's the copy that's going to go with it, and how do we deal with fair balance?' Now, instead, we say, ‘Here's your brand and what it's all about. Here's your target and what your target's all about. Here's how they're thinking of wellness, and as a result, here's what you should mean to them. So a marketing platform takes the shape of a big all-encompassing concept that will then drill down to a piece of television advertising, maybe a website, maybe an interactive program, whatever makes sense based on who we're trying to target. Maybe it's mobile, maybe it's got a retail component.'”

Joseph cites the agency's recent What Heals You campaign for Nexium, which launched in February. “It's still very much about healing, because that's what Nexium's about,” says Joseph, “but it's tapping into people's emotions about the little things in their lives that heal them. Is it time with your children? Is it a good book curled up on the couch? Is it your favorite television show? Is it a little purple pill that helps you get rid of acid reflux?”

Part of the network's repositioning has to do with expanding its client base to include consumer-facing brands with health and wellness components, from food and fitness brands to insurers and OTC medications. “Everybody's trying to appeal to the new mindset around wellness, whether that's food or exercise or creams or mattresses,” says Joseph. “We've picked up six new pieces of business in the last 12 months, and none of them are traditional advertising clients.”

Among the new accounts is Acorda Therapeutics, which has an MS drug in phase 3 clinical trials. Saatchi + Saatchi Consumer Health and Wellness launched their MS Walks program in conjunction with the National MS Society. Not what you'd expect from a big TV shop. The Saatchi shop also won the consumer accounts for Lilly/Amylin's Byetta and two Sanofi-Aventis products.

The agency had one big loss—Pfizer's Detrol, which went to McCann in a consolidation at the end of last year. In addition, Schering-Plough/Merck's allergy combo, for which Saatchi had the consumer account, got a non-approvable letter from the FDA.   

The two professional units of Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare—New York-based Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising and Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Innovations, in Newtown, PA—are also taking a more consumer-focused orientation. “We've worked with our clients to understand how they can maximize more of a relationship marketing approach to help build their brands,” says EVP, managing director Dave Marek, noting the agency's “white coats on/white coats off” approach to its Nexium work. “We're developing insights for physicians both when they're physicians and when they're members of society at large, and appealing to them on many different levels. We're engaging with them on more of a consumer-oriented model.”

Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising won a dozen new brand assignments in 2007—among them, the professional business for the developmental AstraZeneca/Abbott cholesterol combo as well as the Sanofi-Pasteur vaccines business, shared with sibling Innovations. However, Marek said, a couple of losses in early 2007—of two Schering-Plough brands and Altana's Alvesco—gave the firm a kick in the pants. “That made us step back and say, ‘We need to make sure we're keeping connectivity with those clients.'”

Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Innovations, which targets brands looking to “shake things up,” had a few losses. The agency picked up San Diego startup Cadence Pharmaceuticals' injectible acetaminophin and Marine Polymer Technologies' Syvek Excel surgical bleeding patch. The firm is working on a campaign for Wyeth's Toricel, as well as the launch of Sanofi-Pasteur's Pentacel, and launched work for Sanofi-Aventis' BenzaClin.  

Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare's retrofitting has been as much about creating a happy workplace as it has been about revisioning the way it does business. “We've set out to become an employer of choice,” says Welch. To that end, the company has established a program aimed at fostering a healthy work-life balance, dubbed Youniverse, an environmental component and a partnership with New York Cares which allows employees to take time off for cause-related work. It's all aimed at making the agency an appealing choice for young employees.

“The younger generation is much more socially conscious, more concerned about the environment,” says Diane Baisch, EVP, managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Innovations.

“As a company, we have to be so far ahead of where the healthcare space is today,” says Welch, “So I'm not looking at Sudler or Grey or Cline Davis. I'm looking at who's hot in the digital space or in the consumer space. What are they doing to get ahead of the trends? What are they doing to encompass digital and modify their offering? Who's my competition that I haven't even seen yet? Is it the branding shops or the hot consultant shops? What keeps me up at night isn't shrinking budgets or the elections, it's how do I keep this company relevant and ahead of the healthcare space, because if I set my competitive targets at the traditional shops, I'm probably not going to move fast enough.”   

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