The Top 40: Cline Davis & Mann

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The greatest challenge for Omnicom's Cline Davis & Mann (CDM), says CEO Ed Wise, is maintaining a small agency feel while experiencing big agency growth.

“Being big is just the nature of what we've become through our growth. Being small we can stay in touch with our clients and have smaller groups that keep our core agency spirit going.”
The last year serves as proof that CDM's network is somehow able to balance things big and small and still come out on top.

During the past 12 months, CDM won 25 of its last 28 new business pitches, continued to support the launch of a “spin-off” consumer agency, geared up for the launch of a new specialized multicultural marketing agency, worked on fostering top-notch talent and continues to solidify the presence of its specialty units.

Some of CDM's new accounts came from Novartis' diabetes product line—NovoLog, NovoLog Mix 70/30, Levemir and two assignments from Pfizer.

Other wins include:
• CDM's relationship marketing unit CDMi Connect took on work for Genentech's Rituxan, Raptiva and Lucentis.
• CDM's Princeton unit strengthened its reputation garnering work from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.
• The CDM West office in Los Angeles now boasts Amgen, Valiant Pharmaceuticals and Genentech among those on its client roster.

And CDM is also in the process of launching “Hue,” its brand new multicultural marketing group.
“I don't think there is another professional agency out there with a division dedicated to multicultural marketing,” he says. “We are very excited to spring this on the world.

“We had already been engaged by clients to work in this area, we just formalized it as a specific division. We feel this is an extremely unique offering, this is the right time and there's a lot of other people talking about the multicultural story who come from the consumer world and are trying to make the bridge over to the professional world.”

Wise adds, “These entrepreneurial divisions within our agency allow our senior managers to find a place to run different groups, allowing a lot of room to keep a lot of very strong senior talent engaged in positions of running companies. The divisions and companies allow us to stay small and nimble, while at the same time building a large organization.

CDM COO Jack Slonaker adds, “There seems to be a different model for every client. That's requiring a lot of flexibility on our part. We've developed a very valuable partnership with the DDB network around the world and the Omnicom agencies. It's very exciting to see something that was just talked about being executed.”

One of the “examples” Slonaker refers to is consumer agency DDB Rx. Although wholly separate from CDM, it is being touted as a major success.
In 2005, CDM was able to turn the potential conflict presented by Novartis' worldwide advertising consolidation and the agency's partnership with consumer shop DDB into DDB Rx, a new agency with a real CDM flavor.

Former CDM creative director of copy Michael Schreiber was tapped as creative director to start the agency in early 2005.

Ralph Skorge, who joined CDM in 1987, and served as its creative director for art, linked up with DDB Rx in the fall of 2005 and now serves as the new agency's creative director.

Former CDM medical group supervisor Bernie Coccia is now DDB Rx's director of client services. The new firm recently moved into a new space, Wise says.

Addressing the movement of some of its top talent, CDM hired chief HR officer Lisa Welch in its unrelenting pursuit for creative thinking.

“She's a professional who has been in this business for many years,” Slonaker says. “She comes from the consumer world of advertising but also from publishing. She is going to develop a strategy for talent, for developing people, for retention as well as recruitment.

Wise believes that finding and developing talent is an issue that affects the entire industry. “We set the bar extremely high,” he says. “We see a lot of candidates, but sorting through those candidates, and finding people who (fit our needs) is getting increasingly difficult. That's the way we are starting to look at things differently. And we have an internal training program that has been institutionalized called ‘CDM University,' as well as an overall strategy being put in place by Lisa Welch. We have a lot of ways to bring in new talent at a lot of starter positions. There's a great farm team system that we have put in place. It has really helped us to develop internal talent.”

Slonaker adds, “along with a lot of other agencies we continue to recruit from the same talent pool, basically. As a result, we find ourselves having to go outside the normal channels to find talent and work very hard to retain talent. As a successful agency, we are a prime target for others to come after our people. We work very hard to retaining them.”

CDM is also spending time on developing relationships outside the agency as it adapts to the changing pharma marketing landscape, according to Josh Prince, CDM's chief creative officer.
“Something that we are seeing is the idea of patient education or patient relationship marketing,” Prince says. “It has become a lot more sophisticated. Our CDM group is doing a lot of work in that. We see that as a positive trend for patients as it really does help drive the most effective utilization of medicines for people.”

Another trend CDM is seeing, according to Slonaker, is the removal of consumerization in our marketplace.

 “Our brands were once looked at almost as they were packaged goods,” he says. “Now, we are seeing the remedicalization of those brands and are looking at them as scientifically based brands, really recognizing the public responsibility in a very medically relevant and scientific way.”

Noting perceptions of the industry by consumers, Wise says one of the things the industry must begin to do a better job of is communicating the value that prescription drugs bring to patients.
“The industry image has certainly suffered over the past few years, I think with some of the high-profile issues like Vioxx and other products, which have run into safety issues,” says Slonaker. “The industry clearly needs to do a better job of communicating that value. We are working very closely with PhRMA on their Partnership for Prescription Assistance. It's been very gratifying work for us.”

Trends may come and go but they don't significantly impact CDM, since the agency is working on a diverse mix of products, says Carol DiSanto, CDM director of client services.

“Managed markets is kicking up their role there. I think the launches we have out of the office this year all have non-personal promotional aspects that are much larger. We are doing it in a smart, better, more innovative way and not relying on the easy trip of putting a commercial on the air or an ad in a magazine.”

DiSanto attributes the agency's ability to buck trends to its core values, which she describes as substance, style, conviction and grace.

“For me as director of client services, spending a lot of time in the face of our clients, to actually hear our clients repeating our values back to us means we are truly living them,” she says. “Especially the grace value. That's what sets us apart as an agency. We care deeply about the work and we care deeply about the people, our clients. It's an amazing case study of us living what we sell our clients. That's been very satisfying for us. I think it's a great thing for our clients to be able to know they are really getting what we sell. When they come back and say you really delivered on that, it can be quite rewarding.”

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