The Top 75: LehmanMillet

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Revenue was flat last year for Boston-headquartered LehmanMillet. President and CEO Bruce Lehman says client spend was conservative, and a couple of emerging company clients lost financing.

“Everyone saved their way to improved margins, especially in first half of 2009,” Lehman adds. “We saw that across our entire client base.”

Long recognized for its device and diagnostics expertise, the agency broadened its positioning last year, as Lehman notes 40% revenue now comes from products that aren't viewed as traditional device or diagnostic products. “The theme over the years has been working with companies that are bringing products to market that change the standard of care,” explains Lehman. “It's woven into the fabric of the agency. Sticking a stake in the ground as a device and diagnostics agency…narrowed our focus, and it was liberating because it helped provide guidance of when to say no and yes. I've found the same to be true by asserting the standard of care changing positioning. When we speak with prospective clients and clients it resonates. There are a unique set of challenges to bringing a product to market where rules are still being written.”

The agency landed an impressive 13 wins in 2009, including Myriad Genetics' BRACAnalysis; Biodesix's VeriStrat (multi-array assay for lung cancer); Focus Diagnostics' Simplexa (a PCR-based instrument system); LipoScience's LipoProfile (cholesterol markers); and Breathe Technologies (corporate work and initial brand development on a COPD ventilator).

Existing clients awarding new business included Abbott Diagnostics (launch of a global portfolio campaign); Genzyme Bioscience (Carticel); and Aspect Medical Systems (BIS monitor). Launch assignments came in from Sagent Pharmaceuticals AneClear (anesthesiology device); Edwards Lifesciences (critical care product line); and Kinetic Concepts (AOR for next-generation wound care systems). Other new business included Dune Medical Devices (premarket work on Margin-Probe) and NeoMatrix (social media engagement for Halo Breast Pap Test). And, Zimmer Dental awarded global corporate positioning, a product launch and AOR status for its dental implant portfolio.

Headcount held steady at 70. About six positions are open currently (in both Boston and Irvine). Lehman reports “a small number” of layoffs in 2009 necessitated by client spend fluctuation. Head of corporate strategy Stacy Howmann departed last fall and was replaced with account planners.

“It's a matter of having the right mix of skill set against incoming work,” Lehman says. “Traditional production was replaced by digital production. More true classical account planning talent was hired to replace more traditional strategy. We have strategic expertise within the executive team. Account planners look at street level and through the eyes…of client customers.”  

Digital expertise is fully integrated, and it's the fastest growing service area. Lehman says the approach is “strategically oriented” and aimed at driving adoption. “You start with strategy and positioning, then you look the most effective channels to execute,” he adds. “Digital is omnipresent and ubiquitous. We need to be on top of it more than ever before.”  

Revenue is up this year. The agency has already won a new account—Spectrum Pharmaceuticals' Zevalin, the first radioimmunotherapy treatment to be approved as part of first-line therapy for follicular NHL.

“Current clients are bullish, and there's new business in pipeline too,” Lehman says. “I'm cautiously optimistic that 2010 is going to be very solid, and I expect it to be ahead of 2009.”
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