Top 100 Agencies: CDM New York

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CDM produced this piece promoting the antibiotic Zyvix
CDM produced this piece promoting the antibiotic Zyvix

CDM New York, one of the giants of professional advertising and promotion, has made it past the patent cliff in “strong, steady, stable” condition, say agency leaders. But the shop is looking to new, more unconventional and experimental revenue streams for growth. “We're working on developing ideas in-house that maybe our clients don't even know they want yet,” says president and CEO Kyle Barich.

Among them is a social game for physicians called Qhysician. Who's the client? “We don't know yet,” says managing partner and co-creative chief Ben Ingersoll. “We just developed it.”

“We're looking for ways of creating non-linear growth within the agency,” says Barich, looking for revenue streams beyond billable hours. “That's a tough way to make a business,” he adds. “It's still the core of what we do, but we're looking for really creative and experimental ways of creating and selling products.”

The firm has also launched a quick physician poll offering called Insight MD.

“Although we've always had a very big database of physicians, we wanted to create communities of community-level physicians,” says managing partner, director of client services Lori Klein, “We can take that research to clients as a value-add or create surveys with them.” All docs in Insight MD are vetted in advance, adds Klein.

CDM New York is also looking to monetize its expertise with smaller biotechs through CDM Ventures, which they launched at the April BIO International Congress. The firm will help startups enhance their value, with a view to a sale, through branding and positioning work and then collect a milestone payment upon the sale of the company or product.

“These companies are focused on getting their next round of financing,” says Barich. “They have a promising product, but they don't have the time or ability to create a full-on marketing plan. They don't know where the best opportunity for the business is. So we use some of our strategic capabilities to help them look for opportunities.” They met with 17 prospective clients at BIO.

Like their sibling shop across the Hudson, CDM New York stresses their ability to work with other agencies. “Being such a behemoth and having such scale,” says Barich, “we've got so much in-house that we've been able to do a lot on our own in the past and haven't needed to partner as much, but clients are asking us to be more efficient, to work with partners and be fierce collaborators in ways that go beyond what we ever had to do before.”

The agency has worked with Omnicom sibling BBDO on its Healthwork business, handling professional advertising while BBDO handles consumer on integrated accounts. “Both sides have won brands that we wouldn't have won without the other,” says Barich.

The shop has always collaborated with other agencies, but the wave of consolidations has forced them “to be really good at it,” says Barich.

CDM New York has about 350 employees—up around 15 from last year —including 27 in their fast-growing LA satellite, which has won more and more work from one large client and “is increasingly becoming more of an independent agency over time,” says Barich.

CDM New York's medical director, Elizabeth Yi, was named associate partner last summer, and Rick Guzman came on from BBDO as director of technology, heading technology and development, while Dawn Rutokoski joined from JWT as director of operations.

The shop held steady in 2012, revenue-wise, winning business with new clients Takeda and Biogen Idec and adding to its accounts with Novo Nordisk. The agency won six accounts from existing clients without a pitch, including work with Salix Pharmaceuticals.

So far in 2013, CDM New York has picked up business on 15 brands and added three “significant” new clients to their roster.

CDM New York has done much to diversify its roster—not long ago, 82% of business was with Pfizer—and the agency has survived the loss of huge accounts like Lipitor professional to patent expiration while building the kinds of capabilities needed to evolve past the age of journal ads and print vis aids.

To keep evolving, they've adopted The Declaration, which came out of a retreat 18 months ago.

“We decided to wall ourselves off from the world for a few days and put ourselves in 2015,” says Barich. “And we made a declaration to create the future we want to live in.” It came, in part, out of a series of interviews the agency did with 14 VPs of marketing for biotech, pharma and device firms about what was important to them.

“The number one thing they came back with was some level of measured performance,” says Barich. “But you didn't have to scratch the surface before they'd add this concept of some deeper purpose, whether to patients, physicians, to progress and science. And what we came up with is that we feel a responsibility to help them hit their numbers, to hit their measured performance, but also to realize this sense of purpose.”

For Salix, a North Carolina-based firm specializing in gastroenterology, the company produced a documentary film to raise awareness of hepatic encephalopathy, a complication of cirrhosis that Salix's Xifafan combats.

“It's very rare, and doctors tend to overlook it, even specialists,” says Ingersoll. “They don't really know the impact on patients and their families. So this client took a risk with us and we said, ‘If we make this known to doctors, if we show them the other side of this, it's going to benefit everyone.'”

They hired Academy Award-winning director Cynthia Wade, who produced an arresting half-hour documentary called “Wrestling the Monster: Living With Hepatic Encephalopathy” that followed four patients and their families (it's housed at hesback.com).

“It's reaped great benefits for the entire community,” says Ingersoll. “Not just for patients and physicians, but for Salix, it sort of reignited their sense of purpose for what they're doing, which is to be a leading gastroenterology company in the world.”
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