After a quarter century in the spotlight of this Omnicom agency, Larry Star is assuming a new role. Star, who co-founded Harrison and Star back in 1986 with Tom Harrison, has delegated day-to-day operations to its longtime president, Ty Curran. Star will still be involved in strategic decision-making, at least for the next few years, as chairman of both H&S and BioLumina Group, the agency's three-year-old sister shop.
“I feel like I've been given the keys to a Maserati,” says Curran, who had been president of H&S for seven years before being named CEO in January of Medical Specialist Communications Group, a mini holding company housing both agencies. If Curran's now in the driver's seat, Star will be the guiding light. “By no means is Larry cutting back,” insists Curran. “He still is an incredible force to be reckoned with. We're very fortunate that he's still around to provide us with his leadership, vision and mentorship.”
Star's group forged that vision a decade ago. “We were the first agency to say we are the ‘specialty agency,' and our clients now understand we are the so-called specialist agency,” says Curran. It's a very simple business model that continues to bear fruit.
Last year was a record one for H&S and BioLumina, he says, both from a revenue and profit standpoint. Both shops saw double-digit growth. “We were pleasantly surprised by our performance in 2010,” notes the new chief executive. “By no means did we think it would be as high as it was.”
True to form, H&S' growth has been driven by specialist markets, audiences and brands. From Novartis in 2010 came the professional accounts for oncology compounds Gleevec and Tasigna, as well as the phase III JAK inhibitor INC424 for myelofibrosis. Bayer assigned its US and global Kogenate business for hemophilia (H&S already had the ex-US work), and the agency picked up Celgene's anti-inflammatory and immunology (otherwise known as “INI”) franchise. Rounding out its list of 2010 wins was the professional AOR business for Beiersdorf OTC derm brand Eucerin.
The agency also extended further into longtime client Genentech with Roche's BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib (RG7204, PLX4032), in phase III for melanoma, and its hedgehog pathway inhibitor vismodegib, in phase II for advanced basal cell carcinoma. Genentech's BioOncology corporate campaign launched last year, courtesy of H&S, and roster brand Avastin, Genentech's oncology blockbuster, added a gastric cancer indication this year and required a great deal of promotional work.
“They're regarded as…the number one company in innovation, and we feel blessed and pleased to work with Genentech and Roche,” coos Curran. “They come up with these incredible brands, patient services and communications that just scream innovation.”