We're a midsize shop, says Sharon McCarroll, co-managing director of Pace. “We don't have the big New York City name.” While that may be true, this agency's latest assignment would raise a few eyebrows at any of the bigger shops.
Pace won Johnson & Johnson/Vertex phase III hepatitis C treatment telaprevir late last year. “One of the most exciting drugs in development,” noted MM&M last December, Telaprevir represents a coup for Pace, not only because it gives the agency the chance to debut the first-in-class anti-viral. Analysts also have predicted blockbuster status for Telaprevir, with US revenue a hair shy of $2 billion by 2016. As pre-launch professional marketing efforts come on line, Pace stands to gain in helping the drug reach full commercial potential.
Besides realizing that important new client, Pace secured additional business from existing client Biovail, gained a small foothold within GlaxoSmithKline and maintained its eight-year stewardship of women's health products now owned by Teva (Plan B and ParaGard). It also brought on a creative director for copy, Kathryn Liebenthal. Says Mary Beriont, Pace's other co-managing director, “In tough times, we were able to grow and maintain our business.”
Pace lost one account, though, the start-up Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, right after completing launch materials for the firm's IV ibuprofen drug Caldolor. “The decision to move that business was a financial one,” says Beriont. “They decided to go to a boutique.”
Beriont and McCarroll are in their third year at the helm of this agency, which is part of Interpublic Group's Lowe Healthcare. One of their first moves was to hone the agency's offering to include only the professional side of the business—a decision whose wisdom seems to have been borne out this past year.
In addition to the J&J win, GSK handed Pace three small-budget brands from its cardiovascular franchise: Lovaza, Coreg CR and Rythmol. The agency also landed its second assignment from Biovail—Wellbutrin XL—reeling it in without a pitch thanks to its fine work on Biovail's Zovirax for oral/genital herpes. Both of these Biovail drugs are older products, and Pace is piloting a campaign aimed at specialists to gauge their loyalty to the original brands.
Strategic planning and branding, as well as branded med ed, are part of the in-house offering. When it comes to digital, though, Pace draws from its Lowe sibs. Digital, Beriont says, “is still part of every recommendation we make.”
The agency's roster includes two oncology accounts: the three-year-old Bayer/Onyx drug Nexavar, approved for liver and renal cancer, and Celgene's Revlimid, for multiple myeloma and anemia. Pace's commercial kick-off effort for Nexavar may have helped secure Telaprevir. To support its work, Pace expanded its medical strategy department last year, adding an MD and a PharmD to its ranks.
Looking ahead, Beriont and McCarroll like their prospects. Not surprising considering, their entrée into J&J and success with Biovail, the duo is bent on effecting more organic growth.
“It's always a challenge, especially in the current economic climate, to find new opportunities,” says Beriont. “Where do they come from? Your current clients, new clients and offering new capabilities to different clients.”