Top 100 Agencies 2014: LehmanMillet

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A well-planned transition puts agency in "a place of strength"

Top 100 Agencies 2014: LehmanMillet
Top 100 Agencies 2014: LehmanMillet

LehmanMillet, the Boston-headquarted HealthSTAR Communications shop, had a great year—one also filled with great transition.

The agency had some huge new business wins and ended 2013 with revenue up 20%. Co-founder, president and CEO Bruce Lehman retired in December, and Carolyn Morgan, who had been running the Orange County office since 2008, took over as president.

“It was definitely a year of transition—both in terms of Bruce's retirement and in terms of the agency really hitting its stride,” Morgan says. “Our positioning as the only agency working with companies that are seeking to change the standard of care has crystallized. We have a purpose, mission and vision, and it's very unified.”

Lehman's succession was well planned, and Morgan says her move to California to run the office there before returning to Boston to lead the agency has really paid off. “It was actually very Machiavellian of Bruce,” she laughs. “It pulled a cohesive thread through everything and has enabled us to be very smooth in the way we operate. We're cross-pollinating our teams, our thinking and processes very well.”

Morgan promoted 17-year veteran Deborah Lotterman to chief creative officer last year. Former management supervisor Kate Booth was named VP of strategy, and Marc Pondel, PhD, joined as VP, medical director in January this year.

It was a great year for new client wins. They included AOR designation for Alnylam Pharmaceutical's 5x15 platform; professional and consumer AOR status for an upcoming product launch from Avanir Pharmaceuticals; and an AOR assignment for a new oncology treatment from Infinity Pharmaceuticals that includes clinical trial recruitment, disease awareness and the launch. Another AOR win came in from Corcept Therapeutics for Korlym (Cushing's syndrome) after San Francisco shop Kane & Finkel closed shop.

The agency also picked up project work in 2013 for AcelRx Pharmaceuticals' Zalviso (post operative pain management), which expanded to AOR status, and for Verastem's orphan drug defactinib (mesothelioma).

This year, Amgen awarded AOR assignments for two brands.

Two pieces of AOR business—NuPathe's migraine treatment Zecuity and Conceptus' Essure (permanent birth control)—were lost after both companies were acquired. “We were AOR for consumer and professional work for more than three years on Essure before Bayer acquired Conceptus,” Morgan says. “We were sad to lose it, but it's a great turnaround story because it had been a stagnant brand.”

While client side consolidation is a challenge, the rise of midsize pharma companies has been positive for LehmanMillet. Those types of companies tend to work on novel and unique treatments, which is in the agency's sweet spot of helping innovative companies that are looking to change the standard of care.

Business is booming in California. Four employees joined that office last year, bringing the agency-wide total up to 85. There are currently six openings in Boston and four in California.

Morgan expects continued growth in the 15% to 20% range this year.

“We're lucky we're in a place of strength,” she says. “We've got eight launches in the next couple of years, and you can feel that energy in the office. Coming out of a new business tear is exciting, and we want to make sure we take care of what we've got.”

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