Top 100 Agencies 2015: CAHG

A Chicago powerhouse thrives on a collaborative approach

Just one example of CAHG's ad work for Gilead Sciences' hepatitis-C drug Harvoni
Just one example of CAHG's ad work for Gilead Sciences' hepatitis-C drug Harvoni

CAHG president Robin Shapiro believes that competition is a relic of another time. Under her leadership the Chicago-based agency has made collaboration a vital part of its broader business strategy.

“Competition is kind of old school,” says ­Shapiro, who also serves as chief creative officer. “It's really about building business and helping clients solve their business needs by coming together. That's part of our strategy to be the best collaborators and work with all agencies.”

That strategy, though, hasn't limited the agency from taking assignments for some of the world's top brands. CAHG, which in 2013 introduced Gilead Sciences' game-changing hepatitis-C drug Sovaldi, last year launched Harvoni, Gilead's new once-a-day hep.-C treatment, which reached blockbuster status within months. “It's all about building on the success we achieved with Sovaldi,” Shapiro notes. But even beyond the revenue it brought in as global and US AOR for Sovaldi and Harvoni, CAHG grew its business in 2014, courtesy of several new accounts and expanded work from current clients.

The agency won a corporate assignment with J&J's Janssen Diagnostics unit, started working on Macrogenics in its clinical trials group, cemented plans to launch a vaccine for a joint venture formed by Merck and Sanofi and broadened its work with Galderma's Restylane franchise, developing the first-quarter launch campaign for Silk, a Restylane dermal filler approved for lip enhancement. CAHG remains AOR for Galderma's toxins and fillers franchise. 

Part of the broader changes under way at the agency included identifying three areas of focus: digital technology, the patient as the priority and the move toward the personalization of healthcare.

“Those are three most momentous changes that are going to positively shape the industry over the next 10 years,” Shapiro says. “That's where we're going to invest and that's where we're going to work to further agency capabilities.”

Pharma companies, however, are undertaking changes as well that are reshaping how they market and communicate. Some manufacturers are starting to invest for the first time in programs that ­educate physicians and patients about personalized medicine with a goal of going after a first-mover advantage in this sector, and other companies have become much more willing to invest in new ideas rather than successful efforts from the past, which has created a need for more collaboration among agencies.

“Every agency isn't trying to be all things to all people anymore, so we're actually needing to collaborate with each other,” Shapiro explains. 

Still, her strategy hasn't limited the agency's geographic growth. CAHG now has about a dozen employees in its San Francisco office, which opened in 2013, and last year sent two employees to China for year-long temporary assignments.

As part of her broader vision for the agency, she formed a new leadership team comprised of Shapiro; Suri Harris, EVP of strategic planning and new ventures; Kristen Gengaro, SVP and director of client strategy and development; Jamie Pfaff, SVP and executive creative director; Paul Pfleiderer, SVP and director of clinical and market strategy; Stewart Young, SVP and director of engagement strategies; and CFO/COO Dennis Hoppe.

“That's been a pretty big change,” Shapiro notes.


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