The Top 75: Lehman Millet

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After two consecutive record-breaking years, LehmanMillet president and CEO Bruce Lehman reports six wins and revenue gain in the 5%-10% range for 2008. “The fourth quarter made the difference between it being a good year and spectacular year,” Lehman says.

LehmanMillet celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Historically, device and diagnostic business has driven the agency, but in recent years work in the specialty medical arena has really accelerated. Lehman says specialty pharma work, which accounted for about 40% of total revenue last year, has “become part of the fabric of the agency.” He adds that it represents the overall medical trend toward specialization and personalization. “Even large companies are segregating into focused business units,” Lehman notes. “Highly specialized products are going into categories that involve multi-level buying processes. All of which plays very strongly into our competencies.”
Last year's highlights included the coming to fruition of work on a professional infant formula account for Abbott Nutrition. New wins included ARCA Biopharma's Gencaro; Aspect Medical's BIS; Glaukos' iStent; and corporate work for Tandem Diabetes.

The agency also landed two brands from Eleme Medical (Smoothshapes and SmoothLipo), and three from Genzyme (Carticel, MACI, and Thyrogen).

The economy took its toll on two biotech clients last year. Artes Medical, makers of dermal filler ArteFill, filed bankruptcy in December and Anesiva halted production of Zingo, a lidocaine delivery device, due to financial difficulties.

“We did a bit of hand wringing before moving on,” Lehman says of the losses. The agency's workforce was reduced by 10% in early 2009 as a result of the downturn late last year. “It's a difficult decision,” Lehman says. “They were people I cared about a lot. But you have to remain strong and healthy or you don't stay in the business.”

Managing directors who oversee client well-being were added last year in both the Boston, MA, and Irvine,CA, offices. New talent was also added in digital and account planning. 

Business has begun to pick up this year. Myriad Genetics awarded the agency professional and consumer campaigns for its BRACAnalysis Test, and KCI awarded a wound care product launch. Lehman is hiring “very selectively” as a result of these wins. He expects everyone—clients and agencies—to continue to be very “careful and cautious about strategic and tactical decisions” for the rest of 2009.

“It will be a tough year in terms of spending,” Lehman adds. “People are looking at every dollar. The healthcare market will begin to turn positive toward the end of the year. Both clients and agencies that have thoughtfully and carefully spent to maintain and strengthen their leadership position are going to be able to take advantage.” 
Lehman thinks products that are differentiated and truly provide incremental value to customers have the best chance of succeeding in today's marketplace.

“If you have a product with efficacy and utility and spend to make sure your customer base understands its value and knows how to use it, you're going to benefit,” Lehman says. “If you have an undifferentiated product, it doesn't matter what you do—you're going to be in trouble by the end of the year because the market is going to turn to value and make decisions for value when it's aware the value is there. Undifferentiated offerings are going to fall by the wayside.”
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