The Top 75: RosettaWishbone

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When Rosetta acquired Wishbone in 2009, it gained scale, essentially doubling in size. Now that the serial acquirers at Rosetta have themselves been acquired this year by holding company Publicis Groupe, in a $575-million all-cash takeover, they've gained a global presence. Chairman and CEO Chris Kuenne calls being bought by the French powerhouse “the next logical step toward our goal, which is to be a billion-dollar global brand in digital marketing solutions.”
Clients for whom the agency has built its consulting-centered framework—Otsuka, Allergan Europe, Novartis—had been pressuring executives to gain a local presence overseas. “They like partnering with us and more recently have been pressuring us to expand our global presence in order to pull through the marketing,” explains Hari Mahadevan, PhD, executive officer, consulting services. “Before this deal, we couldn't. Now we can.”
Over the last six years, starting with SimStar in 2005, acquisitions have helped Rosetta grow from a $10-million shop to a $240-million one. Most of that revenue is generated by its healthcare vertical (a combined $68 million last year), which for the last year has been known as “RosettaWishbone.”
Having coveted Wishbone for its depth in professional brand-building, Rosetta swallowed it up at the end of 2009 for an undisclosed sum. No one was laid off, and the Wishbone name persevered through 2010, during which both shops saw double-digit growth. This year the temporary moniker is being retired in favor of the simpler “Rosetta.” And healthcare leadership is being consolidated under Mahadevan among a team of senior principals that includes former Wishbone CEO Stephen Michaelson, now a managing partner.
Executives tout their growth strategy: partner with chief marketing and chief technology officers and, drawing on their consulting heritage (Mahadevan was a McKinsey pharma consultant), develop insights into market demand, use these insights creatively to devise campaigns and programs and, as Mahadevan puts it, “personalize them at scale by leveraging the heck out of our technology prowess.”
That distinguishes Rosetta from its Publicis sibs—the relationship-marketing experts at Digitas Health and the tech-centered Razorfish—and is why, according to Mahadevan, the network decided to retain them as a separate shop and not roll them into Vivaki.
The strategy has proven appealing. Wins include BlueCross BlueShield of Florida as well as Medco, both involving interactive and strategic consulting work; Forest's Viibryd, a digital AOR engagement; and a portal-building assignment for United Healthcare. Rosetta also expanded into longtime client Otsuka's device business with the BreathTek test for H. pylori infection and saw organic growth from Takeda, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Allergan Europe. It continues to be the AOR for the Purdue pain drug Oxycontin, an account won in 2010.
With patent expiration approaching for BMS/Sanofi's Plavix (May 2012), Rosetta stands to lose some revenue from that account.
Moving forward, Mahadevan will be focused on optimally integrating Wishbone by ensuring its brand-building talent is cross-seeded by Rosetta's digital talent, and vice versa. Perhaps more important to the agency's future will be growing this new “$70-million secret,” as Mahadevan calls it. “We've been growing our healthcare vertical organically by double digits all along. We have the same aspirations, regardless of our size.”
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