The Top 75: Area 23

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Area 23, located just 10 blocks down Broadway from older sibling shop Draftfcb Healthcare, picked up new work with high-profile pharmas already on its roster, and found a new client in Daiichi Sankyo this year. The agency grew by 20% over the last 12 months, according to Dana Maiman, president and CEO at Draftfcb Healthcare.
Still relatively new—Area 23 opened in 2007—the agency has managed to form close relationships with its clients, and has parlayed those into new work with some of the biggest manufacturers in the industry—but not without competitive pitching, notes Maiman.

For example, Area 23 recently won new work within Pfizer's established products business unit, adding to existing assignments such as Relpax and Zmax. The agency won a comparative pitch for Actemra, a Roche drug indicated for RA, which allowed Area 23 to display its competitive ability against big agencies, according to Michael Guarino, one of the agency's four managing directors. Other wins included pre-launch duties on Retigabine, a GlaxoSmithKline/Valeant anticonvulsant, and Daiichi Sankyo's Welchol, a cholesterol drug that recently gained an indication for type 2 diabetes. Area 23 did not lose any accounts this year, says Maiman.

“We're a mid-sized professional agency that delivers a full-service agency experience,” says Guarino, noting the agency's ability to craft digital, multi-channel campaigns and fully integrated work on the professional side. Draftfcb, and other units within the IPG network, are also available to lend a hand when necessary. Maiman says units like Reprise, a search engine marketing group acquired by IPG in 2007, and Ansible, a joint venture between IPG and Velti providing mobile coupons and managed markets solutions, can be leveraged for Area 23 clients when necessary. The agency can also tap into IPG's emerging media lab, a hub for digital innovation.

Responding to new growth, Agency 23 increased its staff by 30% “across the board,” including three key hires on the account services side, says Guarino. Hires included John Timmins, SVP, managing director.

During the “concepting” process, Guarino describes organized creative rumbles among personnel (barring any conflicts, therapeutic or otherwise). That kind of creative competition “brings out the best,” says Guarino. Area 23's prevailing philosophy boils down to “do whatever it takes,” and that kind of attitude has enabled the agency to build its consultancy and strategic capabilities, says Guarino. With Pfizer, “it's not just sit down, do the creative parade, message and we're done,” explains Guarino. “We're presenting POAs, and working as consultants and strategists.” Guarino underscores the fact that Area 23's relationship with Pfizer is not limited to traditional work alone.

Regarding challenges current and on the horizon, Guarino cites the rate of approvals for new brands— especially biologics and products with new mechanisms of action. Also, the amount of REMS required by FDA is climbing. “REMS are getting rolled into almost every biologic brand,” adds Maiman. Although REMS present another layer of responsibility—such as creating risk maps associated with brands—Maiman says that products already on the market have been a great resource in helping the agency to identify best practices for REMS. “You can't overlook the economy, either,” she says. “We have to continue finding ways to add value and show returns.”
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