The Top 75: Stonefly Communications Group

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It's been an up-and-down sort of year for Stonefly Communications Group, a member of inVentiv Health. While the agency is in a good place with some non-prescription accounts, two pieces of Rx business—one landed in 2008—have evaporated due to market factors like acquisitions and consolidation.

“Outside of agency consolidation, we haven't been hit as much as the larger, traditional agencies,” says John Racik, president and CEO.

One instance of tough luck, though, involves GeneraMedix's epoprostenol, a generic injectable treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension which the agency pitched and won in 2008. Stonefly held the account for only nine months before epoprostenol was sold to Actelion.

It's not the first time the agency has lost an account in this fashion. Stonefly had a similar experience in 2007 when then-client Reliant, for whom the agency repped atrial fibrillation drug Rythmol SR, was sold to GlaxoSmithKline.

Mourned more recently by the agency, Stonefly had been working on a patient-education campaign for Novo Nordisk's FlexPen pre-filled insulin syringe—up until this year, that is, when the agency lost it due to agency consolidation.

Racik's agency serviced the Novo diabetes franchise through “three general managers, three vice presidents and four brand directors” he says. “It's a loss and it hurts.”

On the positive side, Abbott Nutrition, an AOR account for the agency, joined in early 2008, together with Life Line Screening, a diagnostics firm which Stonefly is helping on a project basis. Stonefly has also landed work with moksha8, a provider of medical products in emerging markets which the firm assists through affiliate agencies; and PercuVision, a startup urological catheterization company.

In addition, the agency was picked to work with CPG stalwart Procter & Gamble on two initiatives, one with FutureWorks, P&G's entrepreneurial new business generator, on women's health and obesity marketing issues, and another with the company's Health Sciences Institute to help drive shopper marketing via the healthcare professional.

Going forward, Stonefly is focusing on specific product areas—specialty, consumer and devices, as well as hospital networks.  “We're looking to balance our internal portfolio and share best practices across different types of companies touching healthcare in some way,” Racik says. 

One bright spot on the horizon, according to the CEO, is the health and wellness category. 

“With consumers taking greater responsibility for their healthcare, nutrition and holistic medicine brands will play a bigger role in a recessive economy,” he predicts.

The agency works on Abbott Nutrition's Glucerna, a snack food which has clinical data proving it helps lower A1C, a measure of blood-glucose level.

“That's additive,” he says. “Going forward, in the 4-6 year time frame, there will be [fewer brand-name] samples, so who is going to fill that gap? Other OTC and medical foods. CPG companies have the ability to work within the existing paradigm to gain mind share among patients sitting in their physicians' office.”

Racik is also acting on lessons learned from former accounts. GeneraMedix focused on generic drugs approved through the so-called 505(b) pathway, a type of FDA filing which allows for approval of follow-on products via the use of non-originated data to support changes in formulation without having to conduct large-scale clinical trials.
“During the nine months we worked with [GeneraMedix],” he says, “the value of [epoprostenol] grew by 30 to 1. We're looking at other 505(b)'s with functional attributes that we can help companies exploit.”
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