The Top 75: Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Innovations

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Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare's Pennsylvania outpost survived the acquisitions of two big clients with its business intact and rallied for revenue growth of 7% in 2009.

Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Innovations' clients included Wyeth's oncology business and the professional assignments for Schering-Plough Consumer Healthcare's Claritin and Coppertone. The shop has been able to hold on to both clients, even as Pfizer moved the Wyeth oncology team to New York. “In both cases, we had proven our stewardship and they retained us going forward,” said managing director Bob Eck.

In fact, Innovations is now pitching for new business with Pfizer Oncology, as well as an AstraZeneca oncology assignment. Last year, the shop added the consumer assignment for AstraZeneca's Design for Launch oncology pipeline unit to its pre-existing professional assignment. Innovations also won the Schering-Plough Consumer Healthcare assignment and three assignments from Covidien. The strong year followed a disappointing 2008.

The agency lost one piece of business in 2009—for Cadence Pharmaceuticals, following the appointment of the company's first chief marketing officer.

Headcount is up around 5% and Eck says that the agency has “reinvented through attrition” while trying to improve efficiency. The shop hired a new director of account leadership last August—Annemarie Armstrong joined from Mangos—and expanded its strategic planning department. “We're looking to attract the brightest strategic marketing consultants we can,” says Eck. “It's not about advertising anymore, it's really about marketing ideas that come to life in different channels.”

Eck expects around 35% of the shop's business to be in digital and interactive this year. “All the growth vectors are coming at the expense of advertising,” he says. “We're still doing traditional promotional aids where there are sales forces, but our Pfizer client is 100% digital and driven by tablet PC. We're doing a lot more strategic consulting work than we did in the past.”

The nature of the work agencies do has changed, he adds. “It's gone from fulfilling on execution to solving business and marketing issues, so we're operating at a higher level in partnership with our clients,” says Eck. “Anyone can execute, but few can think well and make a difference on that level, and that's what we're striving for—to think like marketers and act like an agency.”

So far, revenue is up around 10% for the year-to-date, reflecting strong first-half spending by clients. Maintaining revenue growth in a tough environment is the biggest challenge the shop faces, says Eck, followed by recruitment. Innovations' location is a big plus when it comes to netting top talent, says Eck, because the agency isn't in competition with dozens of other ad firms, but cultivating an attractive work environment is a priority for the Saatchi outpost.

“What we try to do is really focus on our culture so it's a welcoming climate where people feel safe and challenged,” says Eck. “That's a powerful retention tool. If you compare us to shops in New York, we have far less turnover and vacancies.”
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