The Top 75: Revolution Health
“What we've been able to do is keep our positioning as an agency—With Change Comes Opportunity—but focus on those areas that will drive pharmaceutical companies in the future,” explains Bruce Epstein, one of two managing partners on the account side (another two lead the creative side). “No matter the situation, there is a lot of opportunity out there. You just have to recognize where the market is going to take advantage.”
Epstein and colleagues see it moving in several directions: The trend away from personal promotion will mean more emphasis on interactive and CRM, healthcare reform will drive a need for in-house managed-markets expertise and the trend of science over salesmanship will increase utilization of peer-to-peer offerings.
New initiatives have already taken Revolution down these paths. One example is 2009 client Bausch & Lomb. Revolution just kicked off an electronic CRM project for five of the eye-care giant's brands. Antics Health, the agency's digital-marketing unit, was launched in 2008, while another new unit, Samplicity, leverages samples to engage clinicians.
Additional new business came from Emisphere, which tapped the agency for project work on an oral vitamin B12, and Bayer, which named Revolution its AOR for hemophilia treatment Kogenate FS. Established clients include an AOR relationship on Novartis managed care, ophthalmology drug Visudyne and three transplant brands—Myfortic, Simulect and Neural—as well as a Merck antifungal, in addition to project work for Baxter (CoSeal surgical sealant), Stryker (knee- and hip-replacement systems) and BGS Pharmacy Partners (web portal design).
Like other agencies, Revolution's growth has slowed as the number of launch brands has declined. It hasn't lost any accounts, although many existing clients have shifted promotional spend to other areas. “As the marketplace condenses, and fewer drugs get approved, how do you grow in that environment?” asks Brian Wheeler, managing partner, creative. “The changing dynamics are the biggest challenge.”
The four managing partners do a pretty good job riding the shifts. Sales-force support in the form of collateral—historically a pillar of revenue for full-service agencies—is becoming less so. Revolution has found that sales aids, primers and other tactical pieces encompass less than half its business now.
With the realignment of sales forces, “We have come up with programs and creative ways to increase the stickiness of a message that's not being delivered personally. The Internet is one way to do that,” notes Wheeler. Another way involves peer-to-peer programs, such as symposia, scientific writing and advisory boards. The agency delivers promotional education via subsidiary First Amendment, also launched last year. Ortho-McNeil, Enzon and Novartis are partners.
One thing that hasn't changed for the agency: the rallying cry to do more with less. The partners throw themselves into agency work which enables the firm to spend 20-30% less time doing a job, says Epstein.
The firm is expanding reach by joining a worldwide network of independent medical agencies, Argon Global Healthcare, and has ramped up its in-house medical team, adding three PharmDs in the past two years, out of 11 new staffers.