Top 100 Agencies: LLNS

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LLNS produced work for Ethicon Endo-Surgery
LLNS produced work for Ethicon Endo-Surgery

Like most of us, agencies generally want to receive credit for their efforts. They expect to be recognized for the work they do and, quite often, ask explicitly for such recognition.

That's why it's jarring to hear LLNS president Janet Donnelly say, “Sometimes clients don't know that they're working with us.” Come again? “Sometimes they don't. The best situations are the ones in which you collaborate so effectively that nobody can tell where your work ends and where somebody else's begins.”

Regardless, there's a lot of praise the agency could receive for the kind of year it had in 2012. There's the spike in new business. And the 20% revenue jump—as well as the success of its year-old, payer-focused Economic Vue division. But the main thing is the firm's abiding belief in the power of collaboration. LLNS reaches out to its Omnicom sibling companies early and often, and works with a handful of pharma A-listers—Merck, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson among them—as part of collaboratively assembled teams.

To Donnelly, shying away from collaboration is pig-headed. “The healthcare world has become so complex. Frankly, I don't think there's a single agency that can solve all the problems for a single company or brand,” she says.

In 2012, LLNS saw how past collaborations can pay off. When a piece of Merck Consumer Care business went up for grabs, LLNS lacked a direct connection that could get it noticed. But the agency had worked with the Omnicom-owned PR firm Marina Maher Communications, and that firm had worked with Merck Consumer Care. Through that relationship, LLNS received an invitation to pitch—and won the business.

“Collaboration is in our DNA,” Donnelly says. “We really understand it and we really treasure it.”

That Merck Consumer Care account win—for Oxytrol, an overactive bladder patch making the Rx-to-OTC transition—was notable for another reason: it continued LLNS's push to broaden the range of therapeutic categories in which it works.

“We're always going to have passion for diagnostics and devices,” Donnelly continues, citing new work from Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries DePuy Synthes and Ethicon Endo-Surgery (on the touted Sedasys personalized sedation system) as evidence that LLNS remains a force in that space. “But with Big Pharma, the opportunities for everyone are getting narrower and narrower. We don't want to be going after the same piece of the pie as everyone else.”

Donnelly points to self-care, OTC and pharmacy retail clinics as areas with which LLNS is “intrigued” in terms of growth. “It's not as if I'm going to turn down a big brand to launch,” Donnelly continues. “But do you know how many brands don't make it to market? To be productive and to really grow, you have to look at different avenues. You have to be flexible. You can't do things the same old way and expect the same results you got 10 years ago.”

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