The Top 75: Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising

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Professional powerhouse Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising is on track to have its best year ever, says managing director Dave Marek, having racked up eight wins in the past 12 months.

“We've really deepened our relationships with our existing clients, and by preserving those relationships and growing on top of that, we're on track to have our biggest year yet,” says Marek.

Over the past year, the agency has seen new assignments from its two biggest clients, Sanofi-Aventis and AstraZeneca. For Sanofi, the agency picked up: Taxotere, with seven indications for five tumor types; a novel sleep agent, eplivanserin, in Phase 3; and an oncology drug in development.

Other Sanofi brands the agency handles include Ambien CR and Eloxatin.

For AstraZeneca, the agency landed a prelaunch product in the dislipidemia area. AstraZeneca brands with the agency include Nexium, Seroquel and Crestor.

Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising also recently landed assignments for: Novartis' BP Success Zone, a branded hypertension awareness effort touting Diovan, Exforge and Tekturna; a Novo Nordisk corporate initiative; Ortho Dermatologics' Evolence dermal filler for Johnson & Johnson; Iroko's Indocin; and Biogen Idec's global neurology franchise.

“That's exciting because it includes products at all stages in the lifecycle,” says Marek, “from currently on the market to well before prelaunch. And with how we're getting involved earlier and looking at where these brands need to go, that's right up our alley.”

The shop recently launched the professional campaign for a new indication on AstraZeneca's Seroquel XR, for bipolar depression, employing a celestial theme and inviting physicians to “Discover something new.” And the agency rolled out new work for Sanofi-Aventis' Ambien CR, aimed at generating physician-rep dialogue about the consequences of a poor night's sleep.

The agency didn't lose any assignments, though Endo discontinued promotion on its pain drug Opana, for which Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising held the professional business.

A few years back, Marek hired futurist consultants to help the agency game out where the healthcare business was headed.

“We invested very heavily in preparing ourselves for the world today, and that, I believe, makes all the difference,” says Marek.

One important upshot of the exercise was that Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising invested in building a strong digital marketing capability well before its peers, says Marek.

“We fully embedded digital strategy into all of our brand teams” he says. “We don't have a bolt-on strategy, we don't have a separate digital company that we're going to partner with to get that done. That investment is paying off in spades now, as clients are diverting funds from one area to another, because we have such deep partnerships and we're already prepared to take that work on.”

Around 30% of the agency's work is now digital, says Marek, and more than 90% of employees have been through the shop's in-house interactive training programs.

The New York shop boasts around 200 employees —up 10%-15% on a year ago, despite the new assignments. As part of its scrying exercise, the agency put a lot of energy into streamlining well before the bubble burst, having seen the downturn coming.

“We looked at how work would flow through an agency differently, especially digital work, which doesn't necessarily follow the same workflow that print has,” says Marek. “We really broke down the process with the fewest handoffs to avoid the unnecessary steps that aren't part of the critical path. We're trying to create environments for customers to engage with the brand in. Then once you have that environment built, it's about refreshing the content within that, not rebuilding tactic after tactic.”

The professional shop, which collaborates with its consumer sibling, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, on blockbuster accounts like Ambien CR, Crestor, Seroquel and Eloxatin, has tried to bring insights from the consumer advertising world to its work by recognizing that physicians are consumers, too.

In its Nexium work, the shop employed a “White coats on/White coats off” view of the end customer— an approach now being extended to other brands in its portfolio.

“When we look at a physician, we can dimensionalize them in ways we didn't previously, in looking at societal influences and how they uniquely affect the physician audience as well as different specialties all the way down to the individual,” says Marek, “the societal influences can then supplement the traditional inside approach that we've taken with physicians. So we're looking at them as physicians, as members of a group and as consumers or members of society. And that helps give us a much deeper and richer understanding of what motivates and drives their behavior. We've started to apply this to more and more of our clients' business, and I think it gives our brands a competitive edge in terms of having a much deeper understanding of their customer base.”

Giving clients something new, something different, is doubly essential with budgets under strain, says Marek.
“With the economy comes a greater focus on increased efficiencies and making sure the ideas we put forth have a meaningful impact on the clients' brands,” says Marek. “They have to make every dollar work hard for them. They have to think about how they're going to create engagement with customers and do things in innovative ways. We're looking at how do we really invest in the most differentiating value we bring in terms of creative ideas and strategic thinking, and simultaneously drive more efficiency on the execution and production arms.”
And clients, hungry for competitive advantage in a tough environment, are more open to innovative tactics.
“The challenge years ago was not coming up with innovative ideas,” says Marek. “It was getting our clients to take that step with us, and in this past year, we're starting to see that happen.”

But it's not just about retrofitting a large agency for a pared-down digital age advertising recession and selling clients on leading-edge media—it's also about getting back to the basics of good marketing, drawing audiences in and keeping them coming back for more.

“The old model was about repetition of message,” says Marek. “The new model is about engagement and relevancy.”

He continues further: “We can take a message and just hit them over the head with it time after time, but people tire of that very quickly. What's more meaningful is when they engage with the brand continuously and have the ability to adjust the content to what's most important and relevant to them. We're putting a lot of effort into telling stories. People remember stories. They don't remember just the facts. So encapsulating everything in the context of a story is a much more rich communication that will stick in a customer's mind.”

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