The Top 40: Publicis Healthcare Communications Group

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The medical advertising and communications behemoth Publicis Healthcare Communications Group saw strong organic growth this year, expanding its business with core clients Sanofi-Aventis and AstraZeneca as it rebranded one of its three main medical advertising networks, absorbed Williams-Labadie and launched a CRM firm. “We saw significant business wins from existing clients where we have strong business relationships that transcend any business unit,” says president and COO Nick Colucci.

Publicis Healthcare Communications Group added Crestor DTC, and the firm is gearing up for the hotly-anticipated launch of Acomplia from Sanofi-Aventis, a key client.

“Saatchi & Saatchi led the way and Medicus had a great year, but there wasn't anybody that didn't have a good year,” says Colucci. “Every business unit had positive growth.”

The network also made a string of top-tier appointments, naming unit heads at Medicus New York, Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Innovations, Discovery Chicago, Brand Pharm (formerly Nelson advertising) and the firm's Toronto office. “We're building each brand with good strong business-oriented people,” says Colucci. “We've implemented best practices to make sure we're operating as a group.”

Publicis centralized its healthcare operations two years ago with the aim of ensuring creative input from senior management on all accounts across the disparate network, with “brand navigators” chaperoning accounts. Now, the firm has reorganized its three main advertising networks, breaking off specialized functions like sales and med ed into standalone operations that can service accounts throughout the group.

Looking forward, Colucci says Publicis Healthcare is expanding its capabilities in the interactive arena. “I believe it is a channel of legitimacy now without question.” To that end, the network is bulking up iMed Studios, its Ames, IA-based interactive design shop which collaborates throughout the network. IMed focuses on scientific visualization and is doing tablet PC work with AstraZeneca and Sanofi, among other clients.

Publicis is also beefing up its CRM function. “Promotion to consumers has seen enormous change in the last couple years, and we believe consumers will continue to have a large appetite for information about their health, so we are working to create the right type of channels through more refined relationship management techniques,” said Colucci. To that end, Publicis has launched Saatchi & Saatchi Halo, a new New York-based firm specializing in CRM. “We're working on creating an ongoing two-way dialogue that allows you to more closely tailor communications and allows them to talk back—not a single passive hit,” says Colucci. “We believe healthcare companies are screaming for this, and that this will actually create what regulatory agencies want, which is to create a more meaningful dialogue.”

As every launch becomes more critical, the network is looking for ways to “move upstream” and begin working with clients earlier in the marketing cycle through working on brand and visual identity and naming. In addition, Publicis is fishing for strategic deals and acquisitions that will develop its metrics business, particularly around sales analytics, as measuring return on investment becomes an ever-greater concern for clients.

Internationally, the firm is looking to expand into Eastern Europe, China and, in this hemisphere, Mexico and major South American markets. “In some of those countries, we work through other Publicis consumer shops,” says Colucci. “Now, we're looking at dedicated healthcare resources there.”

Finally, the network is looking to build its medical education business. Colucci notes that Publicis Medical Education's Discover just won a six-year accreditation from the ACCME—a rare distinction for a commercial med ed company. The Chicago-based firm, now under the leadership of new MD Greg Thomson, expanded to New York this year.

“We still believe that KOL work and physician-to-physician dialogue, though embattled, will continue to be important and, if done right, it's great work, because it's good for the patient, good for physicians and good for business.”

What makes Publicis unique, Colucci says, is the synergistic nature of its business units, which play off each others' strengths. “What makes the most significant difference for us is finding that right balance between building strong business units, developing strong capabilities and talented people, and knitting them together in a way that works collaboratively,” says Colucci, “and because of that, we're doing well as a group.”

Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Communications
It's scarcely been a year since Publicis tore down its Klemtner shingle and slapped the Saatchi & Saatchi brand on the venerable old medical advertising shop. They've wasted no time in becoming one of the biggest names in medical advertising.

With the help of its parent, Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Communications Group established itself as a force in both consumer and professional advertising, reeling in bombshell accounts like AstraZeneca's Nexium and Crestor, Sanofi-Aventis' Ambien and Plavix and GSK/Schering's Levitra. A client roster like that won the firm the distinction of being named MM&M's Agency Network of the Year for 2005.

This year, the firm extended its winning streak with several big accounts and branched out into CRM and interactive with the launch of a new unit, Halo.

Based in New York and headed by managing director Rebecca Sroge, formerly of Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Healthcare, Halo will offer clients a menu of relationship marketing services including online and CRM/interactive. Foundational accounts include Takeda's Amitiza and Ameriprise (the former Amex Financial Corp.), a non-pharma assignment through Saatchi & Saatchi New York.

The start-up brings the Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare stable to four, including professional advertising shop Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising, DTC arm Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Healthcare, Pennsylvania-based Saatchi & Saatchi Innovations.

Saatchi & Saatchi ATG, a specialty shop focused on oncology brands, has gone dormant, said Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare CEO Mike Trepicchio. “It's been folded into Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising,” said Trepicchio. “We're holding the name and we'll see what the future may bring.”

Trepicchio said the consumer group had seen particularly strong growth, extending its hold on the Ambien franchise with the Ambien CR DTC assignment, picking up DTC on Pfizer's Chantix consumer, for which it will soon launch unbranded work, and winning assignments for Takeda's Amitiza and GSK/Roche's Boniva. Saatchi & Saatchi Innovations won Sanofi-Aventis' Botox-like Sculptra. The shop is growing, with a head count north of 50, says Trepicchio.

The firm also acquired one of the drug industry's top consumer marketing talents in the person of Dorothy Wetzel, former Pfizer VP, consumer marketing, who becomes SVP, account supervisor for Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Communications.

Wetzel, who left Pfizer last year, joined Saatchi & Saatchi after a stint as an independent consultant. Meanwhile, Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Advertising added to the firm's Crestor business, relieving Grey Healthcare Group of the professional advertising assignment in a consolidation, and picked up Amitiza professional.

Trepicchio says the state of industry pipelines and the difficulty of getting good staff mean the agency can't rest on its laurels. The firm has taken the skills of sibling Publicis Selling Solutions—formerly the sales arm of Nelson advertising—in-house for help with recruiting new talent.

“They have a great history of recruiting people for sales forces,” says Trepicchio. “We're looking to try that out for account executives as well.”

Medicus NY
Lisa Ebert took over as managing director of the firm in July, filling a vacancy left by Colucci's elevation to group president and COO and filling out a spate of top-level appointments. Ebert says Medicus saw double-digit growth on both organic gains and new clients, including Schering-Plough. The firm also won business on Bayer's Pravachol, Procter & Gamble's Asacol and Sanofi-Aventis' Multaq.

Jane Purkis was named EVP and director of client services, while Rich Norman was brought on as EVP, chief strategic officer and charged with developing a strategic plan for the firm. Ellen Gorczyca was promoted to executive creative director under creative chief Nick Manganiello.
Ebert said the shop, whose accounts include AstraZeneca's Pulmicort Respules and Turbuhaler, Bayer's Pravachol OTC, Pfizer's Macugen and P&G's Prilosec OTC, excelled in collaborating with sibling shops across the Publicis Healthcare universe to deliver services to clients.

“A key capability lies in the ability of Medicus to bring holistic business solutions to our clients by seamlessly integrating with other Publicis network partners.”

The shop is doing a lot of work on prelaunch brands, including Sanofi-Aventis' Acomplia. Medicus won the assignment for Sanofi-Aventis' vaunted obesity pill in 2004, perhaps the most hotly anticipated drug in any pipeline. Sanofi-Aventis has called European approval a near-certainty, and with US approval expected to follow later in the year, Medicus should have its hands full. Though the FDA scotched a proposed second indication, for smoking cessation, the rollout would nonetheless be the year's buzziest, if not the biggest. The launch of AstraZeneca's asthma and COPD drug Symbicort, for which Medicus is agency of record, remains on hold pending FDA approval, and AstraZeneca has signaled it does not expect an easy ride at the agency.

It would also be some compensation for the “accountus interruptus” the firm suffered last year when the FDA declined to approve P&G's Intrinsa female sexual dysfunction patch, for which Medicus held agency-of-record status.

LifeBrands/Brand Pharm
Publicis launched Brand Pharm from the advertising business of the former Nelson Communications, chucking the Nelson name because it was associated most strongly with the old firm's sales function, now part of Publicis Selling Solutions.

“We felt it needed some reinvention,” says Publicis' Nick Colucci. “It wasn't getting a lot of attention on the advertising and med ed side, so after we extracted sales, we felt we needed to invigorate the place.”

Brand Pharm president Lorraine Pastore says: “We came up with Brand Pharm because in the space we're in, that's what we do. We started from scratch in terms of vision, values and new leadership.”

Together with its new name, the agency got a fresh leadership team. In addition to Pastore, formerly of LifeBrands, the firm appointed Kathy Magnuson managing director and Cathy Fenster executive creative director. “We kept some great talent and imported some as well,” says Pastore, who notes that Magnuson, formerly director of client services at Medicus, brings experience in advertising, med ed and PR.

Pastore says the firm aims to be “the agency of alternative thinking.”

“We strive not to duplicate, but to supplement clients' thinking, to be out of the box and innovative, and to couple that with analytical reasoning,” says Pastore. “People here think with both their left and their right brains.” The firm's foundational clients include Centocor's Remicade and Galderma, and they recently added Ross Labs' infant formula franchise to their client roster, while losing Barrier Therapeutics in a consolidation.

Meanwhile LifeBrands, which focuses on high-science specialty brands in categories like neurology, oncology and HIV, reeled in new business from Novartis, along with a global branding and strategy assignment for GSK's Tykerb oncology drug and Eltrombopag supportive care treatment. The firm continues to handle Sanofi-Aventis' Taxotere and Ketek.

Is Williams-Labadie the fifth Beatle of the Publicis network?
The venerable Chicago shop, formerly a standalone operation, solidified its merger with Publicis and ended 2005 up “about 3%” over 2004, when it reported $14.5 million. According to CEO Peter Labadie, the marriage is working well for the firm.

“We didn't expect to see much of a noticeable difference because [Publicis] is a great organization to be part of,” Labadie says, adding that tapping into Publicis' global network has been good for business.

The firm returned to a growth curve after suffering a revenue dip in 2004 from the loss of major client Fujisawa's Protopic eczema treatment. “We've regrown and regathered momentum,” says Labadie.

Williams-Labadie more or less broke even on wins and losses in 2005. The agency picked up a product in development from Gelita Health Initiative; work for the American Board of Medical Specialties; the diagnostics account at Prometheus Labs; and Smith & Nephew's Iodosorb.
Losses included Dermagraft from Smith & Nephew; two Pharmavite brands (CholestOff and TripleFlex); and business from SAM-e, HealthConnections, Caremark, Recom, and Proxima Therapeutics. Significant wins this year include Abraxis Oncology's Abraxane and undisclosed work for PDL BioPharma.

Since coming fully into the fold of the Publicis Healthcare Communications Group, business at Ideon, an autonomously operated medical education company started by the agency in 2004, is shifting to other companies in the network. “We're much more focused in advertising going forward in 2006,” Labadie says.

“I look at the business like running a long-term race —you've got to stay steady and consistent,” Labadie says. “I try with our staff and with our approach to business to maintain consistency because I think that makes you successful as a company.”

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