Speak with enough agency execs, and you'll start to believe that every firm in the healthcare marketing universe is a digital expert—not just a firm with digital skills and experience, mind you, but a digital savant, able to summon triple-multifunctional iPad apps with a wave of the wand.
Not Draftfcb Healthcare younger sibling Area 23, though.
“Area 23 is not a digital agency and neither is anyone else under our roof. We are agencies equipped for the digital age. There's a difference,” stresses Dana Maiman, president and chief executive officer of Draftfcb Healthcare. “You don't see agencies that talk about how great they are at TV, because it's central. That's how we approach digital.”
To that end, Area 23 has spent much of its short life defining itself as an agency that isn't transfixed by shiny new digital toys. Rather, it worships at the altar of the brand. If digital can help, all the better.
Of course, none of this to say that digital wasn't a big part of the Area 23 story over the last year. The firm imported two senior-level people regarded highly for their digital chops: vice president, account supervisor Jill Friedlander and vice president, creative director Juan Gallardo.
Maiman describes Friedlander as the type of multiskilled exec “who doesn't turn pale and start to shudder when somebody says something about digital” and boasts that Gallardo arrived from a pure-play digital agency “that was no longer competing in the marketplace, which was our great fortune.”
Area 23 also poached a coveted exec from within the Draftfcb family, importing creative director Tim Hawkey to serve as its managing director, creative director.
The firm's everyone-does-everything approach resonated with clients, according to Area 23 managing director Michael Guarino.
“When you have multiple agencies touching the same brand, as we see so often, everyone has his own point of view as to who should be leading,” he says. “When you can do it with one voice, it's far more efficient. Clients love it.”
New additions to the Area 23 roster during the last 12 months included Archimedes Pharma's PecFent (for the treatment of breakthrough pain associated with cancer) and a host of project assignments for Glaxo-
SmithKline (on an epilepsy product) and Genentech.
The firm did not lose or resign any of its clients in the last year (“It might be a boring story, but it's ours,” Maiman quips).
Area 23's leaders tout the work done on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline's epilepsy and bipolar disorder drug Lamictal. While GlaxoSmithKline still counts many digital-only shops on its agency roster, it tapped Area 23 to battle against an unfavorable set of market conditions.
“It has generic competition and patent expiry, but we felt we could extend the ability of the brand to compete versus the generics,” Guarino notes of Lamictal. “Adding digital helped sustain and increase its reach.”
Similarly, the digital piece Area 23 added to its work on Auxilium Pharmaceuticals' Testim, for men with low testosterone levels, proved equally successful.
“It's a brand that's not a new brand, so the challenge was to reinvigorate it and help it realize its potential,” says Rich Levy, executive vice president, chief creative officer of Draftfcb Healthcare. “We took away that [the campaign] was about mail or an ad or digital. The pieces came together well.”
Look for more such collaborative efforts from Area 23 in the months ahead, plus an expansion of its strategic planning and scientific services group.