The Top 40: Ogilvy Healthworld

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With the 2004 mega-merger of the Cordiant empire and the worldwide healthcare units of Ogilvy now in the rearview mirror, WPP-owned Ogilvy Healthworld has spent the last 12 months working at establishing itself as a global presence and is looking strong as a result.

Ogilvy Healthworld's biggest achievement, says Mike Guarini, executive group director and managing director, has been the completion of the integration of its network.

“Clients increasingly want global capability from their agencies. Ten years ago, clients didn't talk like that. Five years ago, they talked like that but they didn't do it. Today they are talking and doing it. The completion of our integration has been important because it brings value to our clients.”

For the past 12 months, “We have been working on the development of the Ogilvy Healthworld brand,” Guarini says, “establishing it and refining the office offerings worldwide. First we did Europe and Asia and then we did the US, primarily last year. We ended up, in the end, with what I think is the largest global network. We have 53 offices in 33 countries ... they are all freestanding healthcare-oriented offices. They are not small offices embedded in the larger Ogilvy office, which I think is significant. We do professional work, medical education, clinical trial recruitment, DTC, relationship-marketing programs, interactive, etc.”

A united Ogilvy Healthworld now handles over 1,000 accounts, with approximately 200 clients including GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Wyeth and Boehringer Ingelheim. 

Account wins during the past year came from a mix of areas, Guarini says, exemplifying Ogilvy's heritage of “360-degree integration.”

The network was awarded new work for Wyeth's opiate-induced constipation drug Methylnaltrexone; consumer business for Boehringer Ingelheim's Mirapex; work for Pfizer and Boehringer's jointly-marketed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treatment Spiriva; relationship-marketing business incorporating five of Wyeth's major women's health brands, including Premarin, Prempro, Lybrel; Lundbeck's developmental sleep drug Gaboxodol; and Merck's developmental type 2 diabetes treatment Januvia.

“The biggest challenge has been to continue to integrate programs for clients,” Guarini says. “In a way, the environment and our relationships with clients have changed. Business is done a little differently and sometimes it's a challenge to demonstrate to clients that we have put in the right measures, analytics and metrics, so that they can see the value of the results and refine the programs along with us. On the DTC side there is continuing pressure, especially on the marketing side, as it relates to broadcast advertising. On the professional side, it's the continued demand of our clients to be efficient and effective in our programs while keeping them as integrated as possible.”

The “360-degree integration” mantra has also helped open doors with present and potential clients, especially during the pitching process, Guarini adds. “Typically in the past, you'd go in and do a straight-up advertising pitch. Now, oftentimes you are asked to come in with a pitch platform that is global, integrated, professional and consumer. It happens to be one of the things we can do pretty well. It works for us because what we've done at Ogilvy Healthworld was not to develop a consumer shop within the professional shop. It makes our integration for professional and consumer a lot stronger and tighter than many of the other agencies out there.”

Guarini, who spent several years on the client side in marketing and management positions with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sterling Drug, says that flexibility in an ever-changing landscape has been important as Ogilvy Healthworld continues to build its reputation.

“I was a client for a long time and I always felt it was hard for me to get good work from a lousy agency and it was very possible to get lousy work from a good agency. If you don't get the good people at the agency, you are not going to get the good thinking. If you want good thinking you have to do a couple of things as a client for your agency. First, you have to partner with them. Second, you have to allow them to do good work. You have to trust them, make sure your business is fun to work on and lastly, you have to allow an agency to make a decent profit at a fair margin because, you know, if the agency is losing money on your business, then it might not be a piece of business the agency is going to feel excited about [working on].”

All of this can be tough as the industry faces a public perception challenge, Guarini says.
“I think the biggest outward challenge for the industry is the whole social-political debate. Take a look at the surveys of 15 years ago. Pharmaceutical companies were at the top of the list in terms of positive perception by the public. Now they are down there with used car salesmen and the tobacco industry. You can put on the nightly news or pick up The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times any day of the week and you are going to find negative press about the industry.”

The result is new corporate advertising similar to Merck's historic “Putting Patients First” corporate campaign Ogilvy Healthworld helped put forth last year. “The industry realized, we have to give people information so they know who we are,” Guarini says. “With the new PhRMA guidelines, we've seen an evolving change and we think it will continue. The thing we are seeing a lot more of is activity in integrated services. By that I mean relationship marketing, metrics and analytics, compliance programs, interactive certainly continues to grow very aggressively . . . It's something we've always done and done well. Now, everyone is talking about it, and doing it, and clients are interested. Patient relationship management has grown and I expect it to continue to do so. You have to remember too that what fuels DTC spending is category and product introduction. When you have a product come out and spend $200 million a year, that's going to fuel spending by the competitors. Last year, you didn't have a lot of big brands, so when the pipelines perk up and kick in, that obviously stimulates some spending. In the end, with DTC, it all comes down to a physician and a patient having a conversation. You can go on and on about whether DTC adulterates that or makes it better or worse but, in the end, you want the doctor and the patient to talk to find out what's wrong with the patient and see if it includes drugs or not.”

Meanwhile, Ogilvy's main objective during the months ahead will be to continue to recruit and retain key top-caliber staff, Guarini says.

“You are only as good as your people. Any agency guy will tell you that,” Guarini says. “In a tight market, that's a challenge. We want to continue to work at that and continue to show value and results. In this tightening industry, the demand is to be very efficient, to give the best pricing and to consolidate services. We've been very fortunate that we've seen very few downturns in business over the past several years. Last year was very strong financially for us and although we are only a few months into it, 2006 looks good so far.”

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