Catapult lost its largest account this year, as Sanofi's Lovenox got generic competition, but managed to post 15% topline growth nonetheless.
Sanofi wound down promotion of Lovenox, a blockbuster DVT drug that Catapult had handled since 2005, with the entry of what is arguably the first biosimilar, from Sandoz, which won approval a year ago. It was a stinging loss for the three-year-old shop, which brought in $10 million in fees from the business last year and $18 million in 2009, but the agency was able to post gains with a string of wins, including work on Aetna's ActiveHealth Management unit, two brands in Pfizer's emerging markets division, med ed and managed markets assignments for Sanofi's phase III MS drug teriflunomide, and Pfizer's Gaucher's treatment taliglucerase, along with Dysport, a derm filler for Ipsen, and two brands for startup BioCryst—a phase III gout treatment (BCX428) and peramivir, an antiviral for severe cases of H1N1. In addition, Catapult is working on the global launch of a Pfizer biosimilar out of sibling H4B, starting in India. It's a kind of consolation prize for the firm's loss of Lovenox, the experience of which helped it win the assignment.
The shop moved house, having outgrown its old space, and moved from Princeton to nearby Hamilton Township, with room for more than 200 staff and an open floor plan aimed at promoting collaboration. Headcount has risen by 10-20 over the past year, with the number of employees hovering between 135 and 150, according to Catapult president Jeff Hoffman.
This year, the agency established a web accessibility specialty practice aimed at developing more user-friendly sites and apps for disabled patients. It's staffed by a team of five working on accounts including Bayer's VEGF Trap and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, for which the shop is working on physical therapy training applications for remote physical monitoring. Catapult also opened a custom publishing group, which landed business from ViroPharma.
The shop continues to specialize in pre-market to launch phase promotion on high-science brands, which accounts for four-fifths of their business, though Hoffman is quick to point out that Catapult also handles blockbusters like Novartis' Diovan, for which they handle professional promotion. They call themselves “Your destination for unification,” showcasing plug-and-play integration of their practices—professional brand building, payer advocacy, market development, digital and patient marketing, along with a new strategy group headed by Miriam Slome.
“Each time we went into a client and sold them on one of the practices we had, they ended up using all five,” says Hoffman, “so unification really came to the forefront. Once they saw a unified strategy and a unified team that could implement across all the different communications channels, regardless of the entry point, it ended up to be terrific for us.”
Novartis is the shop's top client, followed by Pfizer, Organogenesis and Novartis Oncology. Around three-fifths of their business is in professional marketing—a far cry from the firm's origins in marketing services.
Talent acquisition and retention is always a challenge, says Hoffman, who touts the shop's “collaborative, friendly” culture as a major strength. The firm's brand essence, he says, is “Passionate explorers.”
In addition to strategy lead Slome, the agency has recently brought on co-creative leads Peter Vilucci, who joined from Saatchi Innovations, and Helen Boak, formerly of the Hal Lewis Agency.