The Top 75: Metaphor

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Metaphor president Dwayne Hann calls 2010 a “strong year” for the professional shop, distinguished by new projects—including five new product launches and a brand spanking new open-air office designed to bolster creativity and collaboration between the agency's 22 staff members—and 22% revenue growth from 2009.
The Parsippany, NJ-based agency was founded in 1998, by CEO and chief creative officer Nick Calandrillo, and works predominantly with “smaller companies, some of them are startup companies,” says Hann. “Well-financed biotech companies—that's the group we tend to target.”
Each of the five product launches Metaphor spearheaded in 2010 were new products with existing pharma and device and diagnostics clients. Graceway Pharmaceuticals, which Hann maintains has been a “very steady client for six years,” last year launched Zyclara, indicated for the treatment of actinic keratosis (precancerous skin growths), and he says the company has a new indication for the same product (external genital warts), for which they once more tapped Metaphor to launch in April and May of this year. Metabolic specialty disease pharma company Akrimax also added two products to the agency's roster in 2010: Tirosint, the first gelatin capsule levothyroxine product indicated for hypothyroidism; and NitroMist, a nitroglycerine spray for acute relief of an attack or acute prophylaxis of angina pectoris due to coronary artery disease.
Currently, Hann discloses, Metaphor is working on the launch of a mystery “diagnostic product” for a San Diego branch of global medical technology company BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), which is set to go public in Q4 2011. According to the agency president, this is the key to Metaphor's success, both present and future: sustaining a “really good mix” of both pharma and diagnostic clients, which “helps set those periods of time when maybe there are less drugs being approved.”  
“What ends up happening, invariably, is we both grow; they grow and we grow with them, and that's sort of the ideal situation,” Hann explains. “We did that a few years ago with a company called Reliant Pharmaceuticals. We started with them when they were just two people in their company, and about four years ago they sold to [GlaxoSmithKline] for $1.6 billion and they had 1,500 employees. We were with them through that entire transition, and that's what you hope for, that's what you build toward.”
Solid management is another characteristic the shop prides itself in, making good on this claim by hiring Peter Volk to head up business development for the agency in 2010. Having spent much of his pharma marketing career on the client side of the business, Volk now splits his time between managing current clients and finding new ones, and the biggest challenge he sees in the year ahead for his business centers around dwindling sales forces.
“In general, the trend in the industry is decreasing sales force sizes and increasing the touch points through digital channels,” Volks ascertains. “This is a major pitch for us, and getting into the strategic issues that pertain to that: one is that if you're going to be a small company and you're heading a specialty group, you want to make sure that you're hitting the key audience, and the key physicians within that audience… That is very economical, in that sense.”
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