The Top 75: Heartbeat Ideas

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CEO Bill Drummy is all about breaking free of constraints—both for his agency and its clients. Heartbeat Digital shed “digital” from its name last year and became Heartbeat Ideas. The change effectively frees it from being confined in “digital only” box and more accurately represents its ethos.  
“We really thought deeply about who we want to be and what are really good at,” Drummy explains. “We were doing more than digital, and clients ask us to serve as a strategy partner across lot of different things. Our depth in digital is great, but we didn't want people to think we're a one-channel organization. Our primary positioning is about being innovative in a constrained environment—bring us your handcuffs, and we'll figure out how to get you out of them. Clients seem to respond really well.”
The agency also moved into a custom-built office in Tribeca. A new website (the final big rebranding piece) launched June 2011. Though a spilt with the software development division in late 2009 decreased revenue from $27.2 million in 2009 to $25.3 million in 2010, Drummy says the agency side of the business saw double-digit growth.
The split also decreased headcount from 125 to 72. It's up to about 80 now, and Drummy is hiring across all areas. Betty Michelson, VP of business development, and technology director Jessica Criscione joined last year. A conflict shop called Heartbeat West opened with five employees in Los Angeles this spring.
New client wins last year included BTG International, Inspiration Biopharmaceuticals and ProCure.  Business expanded with several long-term clients, including Amgen, which awarded consumer work and the global HCP launch for Prolia (osteoprosis). Other organic growth included an enterprise-wide digital strategy assignment from Sanofi and work for UCB's Established Brands Unit.
Two accounts fell away—NuvaRing to consolidation and Sanofi's Xyzal went off patent.
Drummy names “mobility” as a predominant trend, noting people are really starting to grasp how it impacts HCP and consumer behavior. He adds that the iPad, and its adoption rate, is dramatically affecting asset creation.
“Corporate folks used to be very resistant to Apple,” he explains. “That started to break down a bit with the iPhone. The iPad is the breakthrough product. A number of large sales forces have gone to iPad. They see it as a game changer.”
Drummy also notes global orientation is increasing and impacting thinking.
“In China, internet access via mobile will exceed 50% within a year—it's enormously influential,” he adds. “Pharma companies don't have to think only in a desktop way.”
Offering what he realizes is a “somewhat contrarian point of view,” Drummy calls social media a “huge red herring” for the industry.
“Most social media initiatives that have been undertaken by the industry are really useless,” he says. “Facebook just announced that it's no longer going to allow pharma to turn off commenting. That will basically mean no one will do that anymore. There are effective ways of doing social media, but it's not by creating a pharma Facebook page. It's about actively listening and responsibly engaging where appropriate.”
Drummy says 2011 focus is on “making our vision tangible—both internally and externally.” A couple of clients have already awarded AOR status, and year-end revenue is expected to be up.
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