The Top 75: Centron
Centron will enter its fifth year in business this summer. Founder and president Marcia McLaughlin says 2008 was an exciting and successful year. Revenue was up “at least 15%” and staff grew, precipitating the need to takeover an additional floor of office space in September—a milestone that McLaughlin calls “really exciting.”
“Whenever you're new and building, all you're doing is growing,” she says. “From the beginning, our model has been to have long-term clients and very senior-level brand communication specialists working each piece of business. Clients want senior-level people who want to work with them every day, and it really works for us.”
The agency handles a lot of oncology and specialty business, and organic growth has really driven expansion. The roster includes about a dozen clients, all of which have expanded engagements. New assignments came from a number of clients last year, including Eisai, Genta and Takeda Lundbeck. Pfizer awarded additional products and put Centron on its much-coveted approved vendor list (for medical education).
Work is also being won from clients the partners had previous relationships with over the course of their careers. One such client is Strativa Pharmaceuticals, which signed on this year and has since awarded additional work.
McLaughlin is proud of the agency's work using innovative technologies in creative ways for clients. For example, at last year's ASCO annual meeting in Chicago, it unveiled a unique video of professional dancers expressing an interactive story of Eisai's history and involvement in oncology. It got rave reviews, and Centron wowed again at this year's meeting with a digital composition of 3D special effects animation and green screen/chroma key technology that illustrates Eisai's morphodoma technology platform.
The agency has grown from two people four years ago to more than 60, so managing growth has been a challenge—one that McLaughlin says is ongoing. The management team welcomed Marilyn Gross late last year as managing director, heading up the medical education publication planning group. The group expanded significantly, also adding new medical directors and publication planning account people. The agency is still hiring for a number of positions. While McLaughlin notes more talent is available now, she thinks big agencies that have downsized are still “holding on to the rock stars.” The agency is very selective—those only interested in being “a boss” rather than working on business every day aren't the right fit.
Centron will pitch “a lot” of new business over the coming months and increased revenue growth is expected this year. Client mergers and acquisitions and consolidation are the big issues McLaughlin sees impacting the agencies overall.
“As many become few and consolidate, they'll also need to consolidate on the supplier side,” she says. “The environment will become even more competitive. Only agencies that truly have a unique offering are going to survive. I feel very confident that we'll flourish because having senior level strategy people running each piece of business is very important for clients, and they notice it. It really differentiates us. We are an extension of client brand teams. They have a lot less resources and need our strategic smarts, creativity and ability to differentiate them in the marketplace more than ever.”