Bill McEllen's rookie-year performance as president of echo Torre Lazur (eTL) reads like that of a veteran agency head: revenue up a record 35% on the back of organic growth from all of the IPG shop's major clients including GlaxoSmithKline, as well as new account activity. Initial indicators for 2010 look positive, as well. Beginner's luck?
Unlikely. McEllen had taken the helm at eTL after spending three years as a managing director at sister agency Torre Lazur McCann (TLM). Tasked with growing echo, his first big move was a restructuring to create a strategic planning department, now headed by fellow ex-TLM expat Tracy Blackwell. Director of client services Joe Maynard was installed, as well, joining Juan Ramos, EVP, creative director, on the management team.
McEllen says his success stems from a basic focus on client service: “Take care of the customers you have, do the best by their brands and you're going to grow your business.”
That mantra seems to have served the agency well. A 2010 highlight was bringing on the global and domestic business for ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture formed last year when Pfizer and core client GSK each spun out their HIV/AIDS portfolios into a separate organization and put the business up for pitch.
ETL landed GSK's Kivexa and Telzir professional global work (it had already been handling the domestic duties for the antivirals, branded as Epzicom and Lexiva in the US) and one new product, Pfizer's Selzentry/Celsentri global, plus a handful of products in various stages of development.
“That was an exciting win and one in which we are working in conjunction with our global McCann Healthcare Worldwide network,” says McEllen.
The ViiV win has prompted him to bring on additional talent with global-marketing chops and to increase training in this area. Last year a senior eTL creative director spent a rotation in McCann's London office gaining hands-on global experience.
On the loss side, eTL no longer handles pre-launch strategy for lupus agent Benlysta, which is being co-developed by Human Genome Sciences and GSK, after the companies moved the account outside the IPG network last year. And Oscient Pharmaceuticals' 2009 chapter 11 bankruptcy filing left in its wake two losses for eTL: fibrate Antara and antibiotic Factiv.
The agency has absorbed those setbacks and remained busy with several launches. GSK's HPV vaccine Cervarix launched in early 2010, as did Galderma Labs' Differin lotion and Epiduo Gel, both for acne. Galderma activity also included new campaigns for rosacea brands Metrogel 1% and Oracea. GSK's ActiProtect UF, a respirator mask for first responders during pandemics, became available in early 2009, while GSK's Relenza (new messaging) and Fluarix (new indication) relaunched in Q1 and Q2 2009, respectively. When proton pump inhibitor AcipHex, from Eisai and PriCara, needed nonpersonal promotional tactics for the brand, eTL executed those as well.
ETL is handling pre-launch preparation for XenoPort's candidate for restless leg syndrome, XP13512. The drug, which is awaiting FDA approval, is set to be co-promoted with GSK. It's also working on the next phase of the Cervarix campaign.
McEllen reports more activity from compounds in development. “I see a trend with our clients getting us engaged earlier in the process…even before phase III trials are set up. It's no longer about getting a product to market and to the FDA; it's about getting a product that's truly differentiated when it gets there.”
The agency has taken over the office space across the hall, and, with business trending in a positive fashion, is now scoping out larger quarters, likely in its current home state of New Jersey.
Says McEllen: “We increased our footprint within our existing building by 40% last year. The fact that we were able to deliver for our clients has enabled us to continue to grow the business.”