Top 100 Agencies: Roska Healthcare Advertising

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Roska Healthcare CEO Jay Bolling was talking big the last time we encountered him. Really big.

In last year's Top 100 Agencies issue, Bolling promised nothing less than the reinvention of the consumer healthcare marketing model and a new vision for the post-blockbuster drug, post mass-marketing business landscape.

It turns out that Bolling and president David Zaritsky have delivered—and clients are eating it up. 2012 was a huge new-business year, in which the agency benefitted from a number of pharma clients wanting their professional and consumer agencies to be one and the same.

So Roska, already consumer agency for Bristol-Myers Squibb's Baraclude, added the professional account. It also won Cangene's two brands in market and one yet to launch. Roska also added consumer duties for Astellas' Vesicare and Apnicure's Winx. Its one loss was a parting of the ways with Cumberland Pharmaceuticals.

The haul was good for 26% growth in 2012 and the addition of 25 staffers for a headcount of 68.

With all of that success, you'd think that the Roska leadership would slap its brand everywhere it could. But surprisingly, Bolling and Zaritsky are contemplating doing away with the agency name altogether. Roska was founded in 1981 as a direct marketing agency by Jon Roska, who's no longer with the firm. It wasn't until 2010 that its transition to 100% healthcare was complete.

“We're embarking on a rebranding effort, which could potentially bring a new name,” Bolling said. “We have great equity, but Roska does represent a different era. We're looking now at how we best convey our new model and approach.“

That new model is a revolt against the entrenched silos of big pharma and the big agencies that serve them. Bolling's clients aren't looking for advertising, he said. “They really are looking for marketing services. When we work with Cangene and Vanda, these are companies that are flatter, not siloed. They're looking for an extension-of-marketing team.”

It follows that the union of consumer and professional is also important. In many siloed agency-client relationships, connections between consumer agency and professional agency are, as Bolling described it, kismet. Those integrated relationships so important to Roska's growth “really give us the opportunity to work together to drive both audiences in a promotion to affect where the rubber meets the road.”

At the core is a strategy team that works across accounts and is made up of commercial, medical, digital, and CRM. It's led by Bob Muha, a Novo Nordisk veteran who joined Roska as chief commercial strategist. Another key hire is Tina Fascetti, a veteran of Saatchi & Saatchi Health, as chief creative officer.

The new model can best seen in Roska's multi-platform, multi-channel campaign for Astellas' urology division, for which the agency is consumer AOR. The campaign includes a number of partnerships, including a three-year deal with the PGA Tour. Also on tap for Astellas is a full unbranded campaign to introduce a new class of therapy, a branded campaign and a robust CRM initiative.

With 2013 off to a good start, Bolling is once again talking big. Even though he predicts a buxom 40% growth for this year, Bolling has his eye on something even bigger. “Our goal,” he says, “is to change the market.”
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