The Top 75: Blue Diesel

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Many agencies heavy on digital and interactive are claiming to have spotted a silver lining in the cloudy economic landscape of 2009. Blue Diesel reports that the lining is golden.

“We've seen a 20-plus percent growth in '09 over '08, and '08 was probably around 40% growth,” says Kelly Gratz, president at Blue Diesel, an inVentiv Health shop. “For us, when we're talking about economic uncertainty, it kind of hits our sweet spot…people are looking for more digital, more interactive and ‘how do I play bigger in this space?' so that has turned into a positive for us,” says Gratz.

Blue Diesel won work with AstraZeneca on Pulmicort Respules, as well as the yet-to-be-launched Onglyza and Zactima. Other wins include Bayer, Ethicon, additional brands at Merck, a non-brand-specific consultancy with Bristol-Myers Squibb and a pharmacy training application with Cardinal Health. Perhaps most notably, Blue Diesel formed a deeper relationship with Johnson & Johnson's Ortho-McNeil-Jansen Pharmaceuticals, following interactive work on Concerta in 2008.

“We're still there,” said Gratz, speaking on J&J's agency consolidation, which split the healthcare giant's business between two holding companies: WPP and Interpublic Group. “Based on the brand support that we had, we were able to extend into a new CNS brand with J&J,” said Gratz. “We're working with WPP.” Gratz says the agency didn't lose any accounts, but did transition EMD Serono work “to a sister agency because of a conflict.”

Blue Diesel employs around 75 people across two office locations in Columbus, Ohio and Newtown, PA. Joel Gerber was appointed to VP, technology in the Ohio office, and oversees producers, developers and technology managers in the Newtown office as well. The agency announced two additions to the Newtown office in January: Joseph Bailey, account coordinator, and William Verbist, interactive art director.

Gratz and Matt Means, VP, creative director, both emphasize the importance of Blue Diesel's move to a studio structure two years ago. “While things have solidified, we've strengthened the overall studio structure…to look at a brand from multiple perspectives, whether it's managed care, compliance, HCPs or patients,” says Gratz, adding that the studio setup helps facilitate partnerships with other agencies.

“Across the board in each studio, we're doing innovative things specific to channel, and also pieces that can float across channels and be leveraged in different environments—rich interactive content that's deployed not only on a tablet PC, but also on a microsite or website or at a trade show—and we're doing a lot of cool projects with 3D animation and data visualization,” says Means.

According to Gratz, Blue Diesel's professional versus consumer workload equates to roughly 70/30. “A lot of our clients are thinking about how to get closer to their healthcare provider, and they want to use technology to form a better relationship with the HCP,” says Gratz. “Our main core is on the digital side; it's what we do. But we do print pieces as well, but it's as a supplement to the digital aspects of our work. What we're seeing in the marketplace is that it's the reverse. You have these traditional print agencies trying to add on or append digital, and I think that's where the challenge has been in certain organizations.”

Regarding social media, Gratz says mining data is the best avenue at this point.
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