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AbelsonTaylor EVP and director of business development Jay Carter can pinpoint the precise moment he knew his agency had triumphed over COVID’s myriad disruptions and miseries. It was an early summer day about a year ago, when 80 staffers sat down for a routine working lunch in the four-acre rooftop garden atop Chicago’s Old Post Office, which AbelsonTaylor calls home.

To Carter, the get-together symbolized everything about the agency’s enduring energy and spirit. “There was this wonderful, tangible sense of being back,” he recalls. “It felt celebratory.”

And while “back” looks as different at AbelsonTaylor as it does at other organizations, that energy has paved the way for steady growth. Revenue rose 13%, to $64.8 million in 2021, up from $57.2 million in 2020.

Chairman and CEO Dale Taylor acknowledges that while the agency competes with any number of others, it stands out because of the trust it engenders among employees and clients alike.

“That sounds like boilerplate, I know,” he says with a laugh. “But we have so many clients that have been with us for 10, 20, even 30 years. We’ve been with Takeda for 32 years.” While AbelsonTaylor has added hundreds of new people and different capabilities and skill sets, he adds, “The integrity of the place hasn’t changed.”

AbelsonTaylor remains a client magnet, with Taylor noting that, “In the last three years, half of our wins have come without a pitch.” It’s not a legacy play, either: “People keep hiring us not to do what we used to do, but to do what’s right for the brand right now,” he adds.

To that end, AbelsonTaylor added assignments in 2021 from Coherus BioSciences, Arcutis Biotherapeutics, Cooper-
Surgical and Aerovate Therapeutics. It also snared work on a pair of biosimiliars from Fresenius Kabi.

“We worked on Rituxan and Herceptin back in the days when they were the only therapeutic antibodies. So to work on biotech-level agents at a lower price point — that’s good for humanity and ultimately good for our industry,” Carter says.

Agency president Jeff Berg is similarly enthused about winning an education campaign for Seres Therapeutics’ SER-109, which treats C. diff infections with a pill rather than fecal transplants. “This is one of the first entries in treating diseases using the microbiome,” he says. “It’s exciting to be at the beginning of something this important.”

Taylor, for his part, remains exceptionally proud of AbelsonTaylor’s DTC work for Neurocrine Biosciences’ Ingrezza, a treatment for tardive dyskinesia. “That campaign tested higher than any other in its history,” he says.

AbelsonTaylor grew staff size to 278 by the end of 2021, up from 261 at its outset (as of mid-April, it had 21 positions still to fill). Key recent additions have included VP, insights and innovation Mike Czuba; VP, media strategy Christie Volke; and director of diversity and inclusion Yolanda Macias.

Berg says AbelsonTaylor is keenly aware that diversity transcends race, gender and hierarchical issues. “For us, that means creating an environment of rewarded vulnerability,” he notes. “As we build on this internal focus of ‘Return on Imagination,’ it’s an opportunity to grow.” 

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

Stuff, the new Expedia campaign starring Ewan McGregor, is the truest thing I’ve seen in years. It makes you think about things that are important — and things that aren’t. And I love, love, love the copy. — Dale Taylor, chairman and CEO