Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Innovations got new leadership in January, with Bob Eck replacing Diane Baisch, who left the agency. Eck has been with Saatchi & Saatchi for eight years, having worked on big accounts like P&G, Reynolds Wrap and Ameriprise Financial out of the network's London and New York agencies, but it's his first assignment with a healthcare shop. In London, he headed the firm's General Mills business, overseeing advertising for 45 brands in 23 countries. “It was very exciting, but draining,” he recalls.
Innovations, nestled in Newtown, PA, is a change of pace. “We're very much on par in skill level and talent with New York, but what separates us is our personality and the degree to which we really are a family,” says Eck. “We're Pennsylvania nice.”
The 52-person shop, which Eck calls “nimble and supportive,” offers “service with a smile,” tailored to smaller and challenger brands. “The emphasis of our mission will be on strategic innovation and creativity and less about deliverables, which I think will become more and more commoditized,” says Eck.
Three-quarters of the professional shop's work is in traditional advertising and promotion, with another 15% or so in digital and 10% in consulting. Eck expects to see a shift toward the latter two, with digital making up a quarter of its work by the end of next year.
Top clients include: Sanofi Pasteur, for vaccines and some smaller accounts; Sanofi-Aventis, for dermatology brands; Wyeth, for oncology brands; AstraZeneca's Design for Launch division, which hosts oncology pipeline brands; Covidien; and Cadence Pharmaceuticals, for a first-in-the-US IV acetaminophen.
“It sounds pedantic, but it's really a revolutionary pain management tool,” says Eck.
Innovations landed AstraZeneca's Design for Launch account back in November. The firm also picked up an assignment for Covidien's surgical division, covering both product promotion and corporate branding, for which it pitched against Hill HolLiday and other shops. And the shop's Sanofi-Aventis business saw some expansion.
The wins follow a tough early 2008. “This is kind of a stabilizing year,” he adds, noting new positioning and internal streamlining. “We're very aware of the sour market and we keep a very close watch on our clients' forecasts and movements. We've focused in the last year on making the operation more efficient, making our billable percentage higher and driving the increase to the bottom line.” As a result, the agency is leaner, having shrunk by several positions. “We're behaving in a very conservative, fiscally conscious manner and are focused on two things—fulfilling and exceeding client expectations and aggressively going after new business.” Eck says he's particularly proud of the launches of BenzaClin and Pentacel, which was named one of Time's Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs. “That was a real strong PR coup,” says Eck.