Top 100 Agencies 2014: FCB Health

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A new name returns this agency to its roots and also moves it forward

Top 100 Agencies 2014: FCB Health
Top 100 Agencies 2014: FCB Health

For this IPG healthcare bellwether, March 10, 2014, was a turning point. On that day, the burgeoning agency dropped two big announcements. One was the acquisition of UK-based Halesway, the other a rebranding from Draftfcb Healthcare to FCB Health. Closing on Halesway—a 45-person, 100% healthcare focused agency specializing in integrated digital and traditional media campaigns across multiple target audiences—“was a milestone for us,” says Dana Maiman, president and CEO, “because it marked our first full global acquisition.”

She and Rich Levy, EVP and chief creative officer, had made buying an overseas shop one of their key goals for 2013/2014. The two went on numerous visits to the UK and other major EU hubs and put together a shortlist. Halesway had a lot going for it: some shared clients, a strong management team and great creative work. But it came down to the people. “One of the most important things for us was to make sure they fit with our culture and we fit with theirs, and we like working with each other,” says Maiman.

As far as shedding the Draft name in favor of FCB (Foote, Cone & Belding), a move which returned the agency to its pre-2006 roots, that decision came from Carter Murray, new worldwide CEO of the consumer shop FCB. FCB Health was happy to follow suit. Dropping the “Draft” gives its logo a cleaner, fresher look and means its six-member mini network—comprised of Area 23, Halesway, HudsonGlobal, MosaicGroup, Neon and ProHealth—now looks more like a cohesive family. Each carries the postscript “an FCB Health company,” as well as the new color scheme in its logo.

Then again, Maiman says, “We were never that affected by what we were called—Draft… FCB—because, honestly, it's all about doing great work for our clients.” Besides, she quips, “some clients never called us Draftfcb anyway; they always called us FCB.”

Whatever you call them, FCB Health saw double-digit growth in 2013, which isn't easy to do when your annual revenue is north of $50 million. The agency handles consumer and professional work for 18 of the top 20 pharmas, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis, as well as a growing number of biotechs.

Demonstrating the agency's surging growth, headcount has risen from 500 to 600 in the 12 months to May, including 55 new joiners since January 2014. New hires included Brent Heindl, VP/creative director; EVP/chief financial officer Tom Kelly; EVP/chief strategic analytics officer Ken Beatty; director of consumer planning Katherine Ravenhall; SVP group management director Julia Phelan; and a host of SVP or higher-level account mavens, including Wendy Goodman, Kim Clatman and Courtney Grimes.

"These are not replacements but significant additions to staff,” Maiman points out. They've been pressed into service on 28 new assignments added in the 12 months to May, both organic and new, US and global. “When we talk 28 new assignments, we're talking 28 major clients,” Levy says with pride.

New clients include consumer work on AbbVie's hep. C regimen (in collaboration with sibling Area 23, which handles the HCP business), Astellas OAB drug Myrbetriq, and Forest/Ironwood IBS drug Linzess, plus professional work for a Daiichi Sankyo anticoagulant, Lung LLC PAH drug Adcirca and a Noven hot-flash drug, and both HCP and DTC for Chimerix Phase III brincidofovir for adeno-virus infections.

FCB Health also strengthened its relationship with existing clients Amgen (Kyprolis), Auxilium (Stendra), Boehringer Ingelheim, Genentech for cystic fibrosis drug Pulmozyme, GlaxoSmithKline and Teva (Zecuity).

In the loss column, the agency wrote off a GSK CV product that failed in clinical trials.

The new-business list has a lot of consumer work, because there has been an uptick in the amount of DTC/DTP pitches the agency is participating in, says Levy.

“By pure numbers, the professional work is still far greater,” he observes, “but there's definitely more uptick in the consumer than the professional side, and part of that is the success of the consumer campaigns we've done,” which include BI COPD drug Spiriva and Novartis MS pill Gilenya.

While its high-profile roster can help with recruiting, FCB Health has grown at a rate where finding talent is tough. It's less of a struggle now, in that this has been a time of great mobility for people. “Lots of people are looking for lots of new opportunity at new creative agencies, including ours,” says Maiman.

FCB Health ensures a fresh supply of junior associates by hiring them out of school and developing them. A creative team is joining from the Savannah College of Art & Design, for instance. Maiman credits Levy with convincing these grads to commit to medical advertising early. “The way I frame it for many juniors is, ‘There are very few times in your career where you have the opportunity to invent a brand from whole cloth, but in healthcare, that's what we do,'” Levy says.

The biggest difference between healthcare and consumer advertising, Levy continues, is what he calls healthcare's “self-imposed legacy” that it can't be as creative as general advertising. “I wholeheartedly disagree,” he says. “You have to be more creative because it's so restrictive.”

Take FCB Health's social-heavy campaign for Gilenya. “When people told us two-way advertising was impossible in healthcare, we said ‘no way, we'll find a way,' and with Novartis, we did.”

Maiman points to the Gilenya campaign as among the agency's greatest achievements—“becoming the first to do social in pharma,” as she puts it.

To instill this kind of mindset among staff, FCB Worldwide has created a global pledge, “Brave Together.” Explains Maiman, “The only way to get to game-changing work that changes beliefs and behavior is for all of us to be Brave Together.” B&W photos of FCB'ers who exemplify this ideal adorn the agency's walls.

Between pitches, the execs say they will be traveling a fair amount this year to find their next agency partner. The alliance they signed with Argon Network—the band of 22 indie agencies in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South Africa—in 2013 “has worked beautifully,” says Maiman. The third pillar of the global expansion plan includes building off the back of strong agencies in FCB's existing network, such as FCB Brazil.

They're also trying to stay a step ahead of all the volatility in the industry. “With the way this business is and the volatility, clients you have today could be acquired tomorrow. The drug you work on today could easily be discontinued tomorrow,” says Maiman. “That's why we treat every single client brand as the opportunity of the century, because it is.”

FCB Health is used to risk. It takes on many agents that Maiman calls “significant pre-launch, ballyhooed blockbusters” (think BMS I/O drug nivolumab, for instance), and with them comes a lot of potential, but anything can happen.

Then again, she says, “We signed up for this, and we've been doing this long enough, that both of us have pretty much seen everything and anything. I used to laugh at grey hair and seasoning and say, ‘Maybe it's not so needed,' but it is because the longer you're in this, you see it all and you don't get rattled. You know you have to rally the troops and continue on.”

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