Given Pacific Communications’ lineage as a wholly owned subsidiary of Allergan, the news that the Botox maker would be acquired by AbbVie for $63 billion in cash and stock likely raised some eyebrows — and prompted some worry — in the agency’s Irvine, California, headquarters. Instead, as the deal progressed toward the finish line, Pacific thrived. In the wake of a flat 2018, the agency grew revenue by nearly 11%, from $53.4 million to $59.2 million. The deal closed in early May.

Pacific president Craig Sullivan says much of the growth came from existing Allergan clients in the aesthetic space. At the same time, the firm added three new assignments in the ophthalmic realm: pre-market conditioning work on macular degeneration treatment Rayopta, intraocular pressure implant Durysta and presbyopia eye drops Presbysol.

To support these efforts, Pacific expanded staff size from 215 full-timers at the end of 2018 to 249 at the end of 2019. The bulk of the new hires came at the account coordinator level and focused on individuals with video skills.

Video has become a must-have for clients, rather than a nice-to-have, Sullivan notes. “There’s a thirst for more authentic content on video, versus just going for pure ad impressions. We’ve done YouTube and we’ve done some social shorter versions, and we’ve gone all the way up to a longer documentary and content for websites,” he explains.

Pacific has also expanded its geographic base, adding employees on the East Coast in a move that Sullivan says “was a bit different for us.” The decision coincided with the debut of The Current, an employee-engagement program the agency launched in 2018. It’s designed to make the company’s people feel “more connected and more informed, and reinforce the passion that we find in our work,” Sullivan says.

pacific communications

The Current includes employee-led training sessions to help foster new relationships and more frequent employee touchpoints: all-agency meetings, individual team events and pro bono work get-togethers. Sullivan says it has already contributed to productivity and creativity gains for Pacific’s teams.

As for the agency’s pro bono engagements, Sullivan is especially proud of two: its work alongside Mission Plasticos, which facilitates specialized, complex surgeries in underdeveloped countries around the world, and METAvivor, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness of metastatic breast cancer and equity in research and patient support. “It’s an opportunity to do something really positive and it allows all of us to flex a little bit and keep things fresh,” he says.

Looking into the remaining months of 2020 and beyond, Sullivan doesn’t expect any major changes — even with the Allergan/AbbVie deal closing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Not surprisingly, Sullivan says he’s very excited about the new corporate parentage and open to broadening and growing Pacific’s work within the expanding organization.

“I imagine that we will continue to support all the brands we are supporting now,” he adds. “Our goal is to continue to do great work for our clients today and see what opportunities might come tomorrow.”

The best marketing we saw in 2019…

McCann Health’s Breath of Life app is an inspiring and impressive example of work that finds a new, potentially life-changing purpose for existing technology. It encourages self-testing of COPD, which impacts a lot of adults in China but is critically underdiagnosed. — Craig Sullivan