The Top 75: Stratagem Healthcare Communications

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As the economy has slowed down, our phones have started ringing more,” observes Patricia Malone, principal, creative director/copy, for Stratagem Healthcare Communications. Asked how the San Francisco-based agency has been able to belie recessionary trends en route to a 15% revenue bump this past year, Malone cites a couple of reasons.

“We are 25 people, and we are a pretty nimble and flexible agency,” she says. “We're built for an economy like this.” The agency is scalable for large clients and cost effective for Bay Area start-ups. Its sweet spot—offering professional and consumer advertising to a mixture of emerging companies and industry stalwarts—has enabled Stratagem to enjoy a good year even as overall ad industry growth has slowed.

Stratagem, which has always had innovator companies in its portfolio, has attracted more of late. Malone speculates as to why: “A lot of clients out here, who typically go to New York networks or agencies, were cutting back their own marketing and staying more local, which benefited us.”

For Navigenics, Stratagem designed a campaign with the rallying cry, “Challenge your genes,” to differentiate the company from competitors 23andMe and deCODEme. New work also includes redesigning corporate identity for Allocade, which sells hospital scheduling software. Adamas Pharma, BioForm Medical and Pacific Pulmonary Services round out the list of wins from small companies, along with a consumer campaign for John Muir Hospital.

Larger new partners include Medtronic and its line of aortic stent grafts.

Organic-growth client Covidien Imaging looks to Stratagem to help market generic imaging brands to professionals. And the agency assists Health Plan of San Mateo, an insurer serving the underprivileged, with “Healthy Is for Everyone,” a campaign conceived by the agency. Philips Oral Healthcare has been on the account roster for two years.

On the other side of the ledger, Stratagem no longer works on branding for Asthmatx, which transferred the assignment for the asthma treatment device to its PR firm. Two other emerging businesses, whose venture capital dried up, have frozen marketing budgets until funding returns.

The shrinking pool reminds one of the hazards of working with innovator companies. Then again, with the equity markets in whipsaw mode, it may be just a matter of time before funding returns. “They're in a holding pattern until the third quarter,” Malone explains. “The economy, depending on what kind of clients we have, will always be a challenge.”

Yet the mid-sized agency prides itself on being strategic and creative on a tighter budget. As one example, she cites the agency's work for Tethys Bioscience and its PreDx diabetes risk test, including the design for the “Know Your Risk” microsite. “We're complementing print and driving people to the web to create an integrated brand effort.”

Malone says the agency's website and SEO work grew this past year. It still does a lot of print but added into the brand mix interactive work to meet clients' embrace of the Internet. To that end, the agency has brought on a full-time web producer. Stratagem continues to outsource other disciplines, like PR, in an effort to be cost effective. “If clients don't need it, they're not still paying for it.”
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