The Top 75: Partners+simons

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Partners+simons marks its 20th anniversary in 2009 with a most impressive feat: posting double-digit annual earnings for the fourth consecutive year. President and creative director Tom Simons attributes the agency's longevity and success to a combination of “domain expertise in healthcare industry segments and a zeal to calibrate ROI in a quantitative, business-outcome fashion. Those have book-ended our offering in a very strategic, very convincing way.”

The Boston-based agency's expertise spans several healthcare sectors, which are served through a single health practice created by the merger of its healthcare and life sciences units this year.

Take healthcare-technology outfit Proventys, an engagement which Simons says typifies the work of his firm. The agency completed brand identity and website development highlighting Proventys' personalized-medicine tools and diagnostic capabilities, all within a seven-week time frame. “The whole go-to-market imperative is so strong in this economy that nobody can afford any wasted motion,” he says.

On the managed-care side, Partners+simons is deploying a number of campaigns for existing clients. These include a B2B print campaign for Horizon BCBS of New Jersey and a TV campaign for Capital District Physicians' Health Plan, of Albany, NY. Among other active clients are Agilent Technologies, for which the agency recently launched the second version of a metabolomics lab website designed to educate the scientific community on this type of analysis.

The 60-person shop also focuses on the hospital business. Tufts Medical Center and its primary teaching hospital last year called on the agency for a rebranding effort designed to enhance promotion of certain clinical specialties, and a campaign for Tufts' Obstetrics practice debuted in the spring.

Simons reports no AOR account losses, although some projects have simply run their course, as was the case after the agency built a website for CRO Charles River Laboratories.

Simons prefers long-term assignments and has been successful in bringing some on. His crew is handling professional communications for three Genzyme brands—adhesion-barrier product Seprafilm and osteoarthritis treatment Synvisc, as well as its orphan drug Myozyme for Pompe disease—as well as for veterinary medicine firm Putney. Senior-level staffer Deborah Hernandez joined recently as director, health professional marketing, deepening the practice's savvy in that area.

While he remains wary of what he calls the “diminished appetite for spending” on marketing, the imperative to demonstrate accountability arouses Simons' concern more.

“Where we have chosen to concentrate is on being able to demonstrate, quantitatively, that our clients spend more efficiently in comparative measure to companies with whom they compete,” he explains. “We're really trying to get down to spending efficiently, whereas the market is coming at this strictly from the standpoint of measuring campaign performance,” which he terms soft measurement.

To get the hard data, one kind of comparative survey the agency does contrasts Nielsen spend data with changes in awareness. According to Simons, metrics focused more tightly on business impact puts the agency ahead of the pack and in a good position for when marketers' appetites are restored. “A lot of marketers are waiting for things to return to the normal to which everyone had been accustomed,” he says. “Yet we see this as a passage to a new normal where successful agencies are going to have to do a fundamental reset in their entire offering.”
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